Former World Number One Sharapova Pregnant With First Child

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 28, 2019, Russia’s Maria Sharapova thanks supporters after defeating Australia’s Daria Gavrilova during their match at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy tennis tournament at Saint Petersburg’s Sibur Arena. 
OLGA MALTSEVA / AFP

 

 

Former women’s tennis world number one Maria Sharapova is pregnant with her first child, the Russian announced on her 35th birthday on Tuesday.

The five-time Grand Slam singles champion has been engaged since December 2020 to British businessman Alexander Gilkes.

“Precious beginnings!!! Eating birthday cake for two has always been my specialty,” she captioned the photo on Instagram.

In the picture, Sharapova — who lives in the United States — is seen touching her stomach and posing on a beach.

Sharapova followed the initial message up posting a thank you to those of her 4.2 million subscribers on Instagram who had congratulated her on the news.

“Waking up in paradise and to so many beautiful messages,” she wrote.

Sharapova won all four Grand Slam singles titles — including the French Open twice — before retiring in 2020.

Multiple Grand Slam Winner, Sharapova Retires From Tennis

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 28, 2019, Russia’s Maria Sharapova thanks supporters after defeating Australia’s Daria Gavrilova during their match at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy tennis tournament at Saint Petersburg’s Sibur Arena.  OLGA MALTSEVA / AFP

 

Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova, one of the world’s most recognisable sportswomen, on Wednesday announced her retirement at the age of 32.

“Tennis — I’m saying goodbye,” Sharapova said in an article for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines.

“After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, though, I’m ready to scale another mountain — to compete on a different type of terrain.”

Sharapova burst onto the scene as a supremely gifted teenager and won her Grand Slams before serving a 15-month ban for failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open.

The Russian former world number one’s ranking is currently 373rd.

Sharapova has hardly played in the past year because of long-standing shoulder problems.

When she did play she lost as many matches as she won and was dumped out in the first rounds at Wimbledon, the US Open and, most recently, the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Sharapova shot to fame as a giggly 17-year-old Wimbledon winner in 2004, the third-youngest player to conquer the All England Club’s hallowed grass courts.

‘Tennis gave me life’ 

She became world number one in 2005 and won the US Open the next year.

“One of the keys to my success was that I never looked back and I never looked forward,” Sharapova said on Wednesday.

“I believed that if I kept grinding and grinding, I could push myself to an incredible place.”

But in 2007 Sharapova began her long on-off battle with shoulder trouble.

She would win the 2008 Australian Open before a second shoulder injury kept her off tour for the second half of the season, missing the US Open and Beijing Olympics.

In 2012, the Siberian-born Sharapova captured the French Open to become the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam. She added Olympic silver to her resume that year.

Her 2014 French Open title was another high after a dispiriting injury low.

More fitness troubles followed before the bombshell announcement of her positive test for the banned heart drug meldonium.

Always a fighter — the seven-year-old Maria and father Yuri left for the US in 1994 with just a borrowed $700 to their names — Sharapova returned to the sport in 2017.

“In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life,” Sharapova said in her retirement missive.

“I’ll miss it every day. I’ll miss the training and my daily routine: Waking up at dawn, lacing my left shoe before my right, and closing the court’s gate before I hit my first ball of the day.

“I’ll miss my team, my coaches. I’ll miss the moments sitting with my father on the practice court bench. The handshakes — win or lose — and the athletes, whether they knew it or not, who pushed me to be my best.

“Looking back now, I realize that tennis has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible.”

AFP

Sharapova Set For Return After Lengthy Injury Absence

Former world number one Maria Sharapova is expected to make her return after more than three months out with an injury at next week’s Mallorca Open, tournament organisers announced on Monday.

Sharapova, 32, a five-time Grand Slam champion, has been sidelined since February after having surgery on a long-standing shoulder injury which has troubled her since 2008.

“After more than a week testing in Mallorca, Maria Sharapova has decided to accept the wildcard offered by the Mallorca Open,” the statement said.

Sharapova has been struggling back to top fitness since her 15-month doping ban that ended in 2017.

Her last on-court appearance came at the St Petersburg Open in her native Russia in January after she had lost to eventual French Open winner Ashleigh Barty at the round of 16 of the Australian Open earlier in the month.

The competition at the WTA grass event in Mallorca begins on June 17 and Sharapova will be joined by reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber as well as fellow former world number one Victoria Azarenka.

AFP

Muguruza Beats Sharapova To Reach French Open Semis

Muguruza Beats Sharapova To Reach French Open Semis
Spain’s Garbine Muguruza (R) is congratulated by Russia’s Maria Sharapova after winning, at the end of their women’s singles quarter-final match on day eleven of The Roland Garros 2018 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 6, 2018. Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

 

Garbine Muguruza thrashed Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-1 to reach the French Open semi-finals on Wednesday, condemning the Russian to her worst Grand Slam defeat in more than six years.

The Spanish third seed, who was the champion in Paris in 2016, will face either top seed Simona Halep or two-time major winner Angelique Kerber for a place in Saturday’s final.

Sharapova, playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, suffered her most one-sided defeat at the Slams since a 6-3, 6-0 loss to Victoria Azarenka in the 2012 Australian Open final.

“I am very pleased to be in another final in Paris,” said Muguruza who has yet to drop a set in the tournament.

“I was up against a great player so I had make sure I brought my best tennis.”

Sharapova, who missed the 2016 tournament because of a doping ban and last year after she was refused a wild card, was broken six times, committed 27 unforced errors and won just five points on her own serve in the second set.

It was just her fifth loss in 25 Grand Slam quarter-finals.

Muguruza pounced on an error-plagued Sharapova start to lead 4-0 with a double break.

Sharapova never recovered from serving up three double faults in the first game.

By the end of the first set, the five-time major winner had won just eight points against the Muguruza serve and failed to carve out a single break point.

Muguruza only hit five winners in the opener which was more than enough against the erratic Russian who reached the quarter-finals for the first time in three years when old rival Serena Williams handed her an injury-enforced walkover.

Sharapova, 31, was broken in the opening game of the second set which she immediately retrieved.

However, it was just a brief respite as 24-year-old Wimbledon champion Muguruza claimed a quick double break for 4-1, backed up by a hold for 5-1.

It was all over in the next game when Sharapova sent another backhand out wide.

In Thursday’s other semi-final, US Open champion Sloane Stephens will take on fellow American Madison Keys in a repeat of the 2017 final at Flushing Meadows.

AFP

Sharapova Wins Rome Epic As Nadal Makes Semis

Sharapova Wins Rome Epic As Nadal Makes Semis
Russia’s Maria Sharapova hits a return to Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko during their quarter final match at Rome’s WTA Tennis Open tournament at the Foro Italico, on May 18, 2018 in Rome. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Maria Sharapova fired a French Open warning with an epic three-hour win over Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the Rome semi-finals on Friday as Rafael Nadal continued his clay court domination.

Former world number one and five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova found herself in a dogfight with her Latvian opponent.

Playing her fourth match in as many days, Sharapova needed three hours, 10 minutes to win a gruelling struggle, eventually triumphing 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 7-5.

For Sharapova, now the world number 40, it was arguably her best victory since her return from a 15-month doping ban last year.

The loss, meanwhile, left Ostapenko with only Rome and Stuttgart quarter-finals to show for her efforts prior to the start of her title defence in Paris a week from Sunday.

“It was nice to close things down in that way after a long match,” Sharapova said.

“I didn’t have a great first set, I kept going. I like to smile about it.

“I appreciate this new chapter of my career, I still have lots of passion for the sport and for this life. I realise I’m towards the end of my career so I appreciate it.”

Sharapova rode a roller-coaster in her marathon win, working her way from 4-1 down in the first set only to drop it in a tiebreaker after 80 minutes.

She regained her momentum to win the second set but it was tough in the third when she let a 4-2 lead get away.

With Sharapova serving for victory, Ostapenko secured a break for 4-5 thanks to a ninth Sharapova double-fault which yielded a breakpoint.

The sixth seed then saved two Sharapova match points to level 5-5 before the Russian secured victory two games later with a final break in a match marred by 21 cumulative double-faults and a dozen breaks of serve.

Men’s top seed Nadal rallied from a set down to post a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Italian Fabio Fognini.

Second-ranked Nadal needs to lift an eighth career title at the Foro Italico on Sunday to return to the top of the rankings after losing that position to Roger Federer last week.

Nadal dropped the opening set to Fognini in an hour but regrouped effortlessly as he swept past the Italian in the one-sided second and third sets.

“I’m not used to playing so early,” Nadal said of his midday start. “But I’m very happy to be in the semi-finals.

“This was a very important win for me today.”

Nadal also beat Fognini in Rome in 2013 in their first-ever meeting.

This was his 11th victory in 14 meetings with the 21st-ranked Italian, and sixth in a row.

Nadal is working towards Roland Garros, where he will aim for an unprecedented 11th title.

“My clay court season has been, I think, fantastic. It will be much better if I finish here with another title,” added the 16-time Grand Slam winner.

“But I can’t forget that I had five months without competing, from Shanghai (October 2017) until Monte-Carlo (last month). I didn’t complete — not one event.

“The comeback has been great, I am happy with everything.”

It was the first time in four years that Nadal managed to win his quarter-final tie in Rome and next up he will face either fellow former world number one Novak Djokovic or Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

Estonian Anett Kontaveit earned an upset over second seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-1.

Fourth seed Elina Svitolina recovered from a slow start to defeat former number one Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-4, 6-4.

“I had to really step up and play really aggressive in important moments,” Svitolina said. “I think that was the key for today.”

Marin Cilic beat Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-3 to reach the Rome semi-finals for the first time.

AFP

Sharapova Stunned By Garcia In Stuttgart First Round

Sharapova Stunned By Garcia In Stuttgart First Round
Russia’s Maria Sharapova returns the ball to France’s Caroline Garcia during their tennis match at the WTA Tennis Grand Prix on April 24, 2018, in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany.
THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

 

Maria Sharapova crashed out in the opening round of the Stuttgart Grand Prix on Tuesday as French sixth seed Caroline Garcia staged a fightback to win 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4.

“This was not the result that I wanted, but I can take a lot out of this match,” Sharapova said. “I’ve not competed for a few weeks, but I played pretty solid and did all of the right things.

“I served well in the first set but had a few doubles at the wrong time. Physically, I felt quite strong.”

The five-time Grand Slam champion, who turned 31 last week, looked to be in control as she made just two unforced errors in winning the opening set.

But Garcia, who had never beaten the Russian in four previous meetings — they last played in Madrid three years ago — rallied in the second set as she came from 4-2 down and levelled the contest in a tie-break.

Sharapova Stunned By Garcia In Stuttgart First Round
Sharapova congratulates Garcia after she won the tennis match.
THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

 

The 41st-ranked Sharapova returned to tennis in Stuttgart exactly a year ago after finishing a 15-month doping ban for meldonium and reached the semi-finals.

She claimed an early break in the third set, but lost it in the third game as Garcia tightened the screw on the crowd favourite.

Sharapova was broken to trail 4-5 and put her opponent under momentary pressure at 0-30 as Garcia tried to serve out the win.

But the world number seven succeeded on her second match point as Sharapova struck a return wide to exit after two and three-quarter hours of battle on the indoor clay court.

Sharapova said her game might have been compromised by weeks of forearm injury recovery after last playing in Indian Wells six weeks ago.

“Overall I didn’t react as well as I could against a server like her, she got lots of free points,” Sharapova said.

“I didn’t get enough balls back. We were both playing fast, and aggressive.

“I need to be smarter in the winning position.”

Sharapova Stunned By Garcia In Stuttgart First Round
France’s Caroline Garcia reacts after winning the match.
THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

 

Garcia will next take on Ukrainian qualifier Marta Kostyuk who scored a 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Antonia Lottner.

The youngster, who doesn’t turn 16 until just before the start of Wimbledon, was joined in round two by Czech fifth seed Karolina Pliskova, who beat Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens 6-2, 6-2.

Kostyuk made a breakthrough with a surprise third-round showing at the Australian Open as a qualifier, finally losing to compatriot Elina Svitolina.

World number 158 Kostyuk has since claimed a second-tier title in Burnie, Australia and reached a final in Zhuhai, China in March.

Her defeat of Lottner, ranked 155th, took just under 90 minutes, with the teenager breaking four times while losing serve only once.

Pliskova, who has been on site for a week training, is playing Stuttgart for the third consecutive year, after losing to eventual champion Laura Siegemund in the 2017 quarter-finals.

“I felt the best today and for sure it was not her best match but that was not much to do with me,” Pliskova said.

“The serve was good and I got a lot of free points, my shots were working — there was no problem from my side today.”

The Czech dominated Bertens, with the winner firing six aces and breaking four times.

Reigning champion Laura Siegemund beat Barbora Strycova 6-4, 6-3, but Marketa Vondrousova did get one over the Germans for the Czechs with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Julia Goerges.

AFP

Federer, Djokovic Win Big In Melbourne

Switzerland’s Roger Federer reacts after beating Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene in their men’s singles first round match on day two of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 16, 2018.
PETER PARKS / AFP

Flawless Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic stamped their mark on the Australian Open on Tuesday with focused former champion Maria Sharapova also successfully negotiating the first round after her drug ban.

Defending champion Federer, rated as the favourite to win his 20th Grand Slam title, made his entrance on Rod Laver Arena with a sizzling 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 lesson for Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene.

The second-seeded Swiss, who is coming off an extraordinary 2017, when he won a fifth Australian Open title and a record eighth at Wimbledon, was in total control.

“I was thinking a lot about what happened at the tournament last year because it was my favourite tournament of the whole season,” said the 36-year-old, who beat Rafael Nadal in 2017 final.

“I’m hoping for it to go well again.”

Twelve-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic has been out of action for six months with an elbow injury, but he too looked the goods in his 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 demolition of American Donald Young.

Gunning for a seventh Australian Open title, he was glad to be back at the coal face, having missed the competitive edge.

“I wanted to start with the right intensity, which I have,” he told the cheering crowd afterwards.

“I played perfect tennis in the first couple of sets and Donald came back in the third set.”

Former Melbourne champion Stan Wawrinka also successfully returned from half a year on the sidelines after knee surgery, having only decided he was fit to play at the weekend.

With the temperatures heating up, he was pushed to four sets by Ricardas Berankis before prevailing 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7/2) in a tough workout he said was “proud” to come through.

World number one Simona Halep booked her place in round two, avoiding the first round exit that befell her in the past two years. But she made a meal of it against local hope Destanee Aiava.

Both the Romanian and her 17-year-old wildcard opponent needed on-court medical attention before the top seed ran out a battling 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 winner.

Third seeded Garbine Muguruza, with heavy strapping on her injured right thigh, made her tournament bow with a laboured 6-3, 6-3 win over French wildcard Jessika Ponchet.

– ‘Really meaningful’ –

Sharapova, still working her way back from a 15-month ban for taking the performance-enhancing substance meldonium in Australia in 2016, showed glimpses of the tennis that made her a five-time major winner.

The 2008 Melbourne Park champion, now ranked 48, beat Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-1, 6-4 in her first Australian Open match in two years.

“I cherish these moments. I love it here,” said the Russian, who returned from her drugs ban in April last year.

“It’s been a couple of years and I wanted it to be really meaningful to me.”

Fellow former world number one Angelique Kerber, who won the tournament in 2016, was also impressive in dismissing Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-0, 6-4.

“2017, I have said goodbye already, I am not looking back,” she said after a forgettable last season that saw her relinquish the number one spot and slide down the rankings.

She is now on a 10-match win streak after a perfect early season.

Sixth seed Karolina Pliskova and eighth seed Caroline Garcia also progressed, in contrast to the other side of the draw that saw Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Coco Vandeweghe crash out on Monday.

American woes continued with Madison Brengle sent packing by British ninth seed Johanna Konta.

Young gun Alexander Zverev, seeded four, Belgian seventh seed David Goffin, and dark horse Tomas Berdych were among men to make the second round.

But Canada’s Milos Raonic, who has made at least the last eight over the past three years in Melbourne, was bundled out by 86th-ranked Slovakian Lukas Lacko in four sets.

It was his earliest Grand Slam exit in seven years as he fights back from a wrist injury.

AFP

Sharapova Named In India Luxury Housing Fraud Probe

Maria SharapovaFive-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova is under investigation by Indian police for cheating and criminal conspiracy after the collapse of a luxury housing project that she endorsed, a lawyer said Tuesday.

The firm behind the development is alleged to have taken millions of dollars from homebuyers before the project folded.

Piyush Singh, a lawyer representing one of the buyers, told AFP that police had filed initial charges of cheating and criminal conspiracy against Sharapova as part of a wider case against the firm Homestead Infrastructure Development.

The 30-year-old tennis star travelled to India in 2012 to launch the luxury high-rise apartment complex — named Ballet by Sharapova — which prospective buyers were told would house a tennis academy, a clubhouse and a helipad.

The website of the project quotes Sharapova as saying her goal was to “make the owners feel like they own something special and different”.

“Any celebrity who endorses any product technically becomes an agent for that company. No one would have invested in the project if Sharapova’s name was not there,” said Singh.

The project in Gurgaon — a satellite city of the capital New Delhi — was supposed to be ready in 2016 but, Singh said, construction work was abandoned after builders collected millions from homebuyers.

Police were not immediately available for comment on the case, which is being heard in a Delhi court.

Calls to the developers also went unanswered. Sharapova has not commented on the case.

The former world number one made almost $30 million in 2015, according to Forbes, with $23 million of that coming from endorsements like the project in Gurgaon.

She has had a stop-start season since her controversial return to the game in April, following a 15-month doping ban.

AFP

Sharapova Reaches First Final Since Drugs Ban

Maria Sharapova of Russia hits a return against Magda Linette of Poland during their women’s singles second round match at the WTA Tianjin Open tennis tournament in Tianjin on October 12, 2017.  STR / AFP

Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova crushed Peng Shuai 6-3, 6-1 at the Tianjin Open on Saturday to reach her first final since serving a 15-month doping ban.

The 30-year-old Russian, playing on a wildcard in the seventh tournament of her comeback, hit top gear as she swept aside the Chinese third seed in one hour, 18 minutes.

In front of a large home crowd, a businesslike Sharapova broke four times and conceded zero breaks of her own before wrapping up the semi-final with a clinical crosscourt forehand.

In Sunday’s final — her first since she won the Italian Open in May 2015 — she will be the red-hot favourite against 102nd-ranked Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who beat qualifier Sara Errani 6-1, 6-3.

Sharapova has had a stop-start and injury-hit season since her controversial return at Stuttgart in April, following her ban for using the banned substance meldonium.

The statuesque former world number one reached the Stuttgart semis but she retired in the Italian Open second round and also withdrew from her second-round match at Stanford.

Sharapova missed Wimbledon qualifying because of injury and she wasn’t offered a wildcard to the French Open, but she reached the US Open last 16 on her return to Grand Slam tennis.

She has cut a swathe through the limited draw in Tianjin, beating Irina-Camelia Begu, Magda Linette, Stefanie Voegele and Peng without dropping a set.

Sharapova, one of the world’s highest-earning female athletes, will now expect to win her 36th career title and end a trophy drought of more than two years, the longest since her debut win in 2003.

By contrast Sabalenka, 19, is gunning for her first WTA title after a run to the Tianjin final that included wins over China’s Duan Ying-Ying and Lin Zhu.

Sharapova, currently ranked 86th, has also been handed a wildcard for next week’s Kremlin Cup in Moscow, which she will play for the first time since 2007.

AFP

Sharapova Wins Slam Return, Ousts Halep At U.S. Open

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates winning her first round Women’s Singles match against Simona Halep of Romania on Day One of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 28, 2017 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Clive Brunskill/Getty Images/AFP

Former world number one Maria Sharapova made a triumphant return to Grand Slam competition on Monday after a 15-month doping ban, outlasting second-ranked Simona Halep 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 at the U.S. Open.

The 30-year-old Russian, who had only one hardcourt tuneup match due to a nagging forearm injury, swatted 60 winners with 64 unforced errors, setting the tempo and baffling Halep at times in a tension-packed thriller at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“This girl has a lot of grit,” Sharapova said of herself. “And she’s not going anywhere.”

Sharapova, who tested positive for meldonium at last year’s Australian Open, improved to 7-0 in her all-time rivalry with Halep, extending her mastery over the 25-year-old Romanian.

“I just thought this was another day, another opportunity, another match but this was so much more,” Sharapova said.

“You sometimes wonder why you put in all the work and this is exactly why.”

An emotional Sharapova punctuated her shotmaking, at times erratic and other moments spectacular, with screams and fist pumps. She was energetic even at rest, closing her eyes and bouncing her legs as she sat between sets.

After the final point, Sharapova dropped to her knees in tears as a replay appeal showed what she already knew.

She later battled back tears as she blew kisses to spectators, sobbed at times and mouthed “Thank you” to fans that were devoted throughout the two hour and 45 minute drama.

“You never know what you’re going to feel until you win that match point,” she said. “It was so worth it.”

Sharapova, whose major titles include the 2006 US Open, advanced to a second-round matchup against Hungarian Timea Babos, whom she has never played.

Sharapova won only 5 of 22 break points in the match while Halep won 4 of 10 and produced only 15 winners against 14 unforced errors.

It was Sharapova’s first Grand Slam match since a quarter-final loss to Serena Williams in last year’s Australian Open.

Sharapova, ranked 146th, returned in April but the French Open snubbed Sharapova for a wildcard entry and she missed Wimbledon with a thigh injury.

Asked about her low points, Sharapova, said, “There were definitely a few but I don’t think this is the time to talk about that.”

Sharapova walked onto the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium to rousing applause. She wore a black dress, visor, socks and shoes, the same style she sported in taking the trophy nine years ago on the New York hardcourts.

‘It’s prime time, baby

Halep hit a backhand long to hand Sharapova a break and 2-0 lead in the last set and the Russian held to the finish, escaping a break point in the final game when Halep netted a forehand.

A Sharapova backhand winner set up match point and brought huge applause but a thunderous ovation came when Halep hit a forehand long to end it, boosting Sharapova to 18-0 in night matches at Ashe.

“It’s prime time baby,” she said. “I love it.”

Reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza advanced and British seventh seed Johanna Konta was ousted in other women’s matches.

Spanish third seed Muguruza defeated American Varvara Lepchenko 6-0, 6-3. Muguruza can reach the US Open third round for the first time Wednesday by defeating China’s Duan Ying-Ying.

“Coming to US Open and having a dark past in the results, I keep it with low expectations,” Muguruza said.

Serbia’s 78th-ranked Aleksandra Krunic upset Australian-born Konta 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, removing the only other top-10 player from Sharapova’s draw quarter.

“It’s definitely not an easy loss to take,” Konta said. “She played consistently much better than I did.”

‘A little bit rusty’ 

German fourth seed Alexander Zverev, the top-ranked player in his half of the draw, saved two set points in the first tie-break and downed stubborn Barbados qualifier and Slam debutant Darian King 7-6 (11/9), 7-5, 6-4.

Croatian fifth seed Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion and last month’s Wimbledon runner-up, ousted 105th-ranked American Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

“I feel just a little bit rusty,” Cilic said. “I need a few matches to get into the rhythm.”

AFP

Muguruza Advances As Sharapova Returns At US Open

Gabrine Muguruza of Spain looks on during her first round Women’s Singles match against Varvara Lepchenko of the United States on Day One of the 2017 US Open.
Richard HEATHCOTE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza advanced while British seventh seed Johanna Konta was ousted on Monday at the US Open, where Maria Sharapova’s long-awaited return to Grand Slam tennis was finally at hand.

Spanish third seed Muguruza defeated American Varvara Lepchenko 6-0, 6-3 for her first triumph in Arthur Ashe Stadium, which celebrated its 20th anniversary on the first day of New York hardcourt matches.

Muguruza, last year’s French Open champion, can reach the US Open third round for the first time on Wednesday by defeating China’s Duan Ying-Ying.

“Very happy I’m in the second round,” said Muguruza. “I’ve been here so many times and I’ve never done very well. I will try again and hopefully, it will happen.”

Serbia’s 78th-ranked Aleksandra Krunic upset Australian-born Konta 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, ending her slim hopes at taking the world number one ranking at the tournament.

“I’m happy I had everything together and was able to put some serves in,” said Krunic, whose deepest Slam run was to the last 16 here in 2014.

Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion and last month’s Wimbledon runner-up, had not played since losing the All England final to Roger Federer due to an adductor strain.

But the Croatian fifth seed ousted 105th-ranked American Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

“I feel just a little bit rusty,” Cilic said. “I need a few matches to get into the rhythm. It’s a matter of me getting consistency point after point and match after match and I’ll be working on that.”

Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova was set to face Romania’s second-ranked Simona Halep in the night feature, the Russian’s first Grand Slam match since serving a 15-month doping ban and only her second on hard courts.

“I don’t think any tennis fan in the world is not going to have that match on,” said US 15th seed Madison Keys.

Former world number one Sharapova is 6-0 lifetime against Halep, although she last played the 25-year-old Romanian in the 2015 WTA Finals.

“It’s going to be a big challenge, first round of a Grand Slam, to face her,” Halep said. “I feel better and I feel that I’m ready to face her again.”

Sharapova, whose major titles include the 2006 US Open, tested positive for the banned drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open. Her comeback began in April with the aid of wildcards, which drew complaints from many rivals.

“When someone has been banned or out of competition, I think you have to work for it a little bit to go and play your tournaments and not help that much sometimes,” Muguruza said Saturday.

The French Open denied Sharapova a wildcard and she missed Wimbledon with a thigh injury, but US Open officials offered her a wildcard as “a past US champion who needed the wildcard for entry into the main draw,” according to a tournament statement.

Sharapova, ranked 146th, played only one hardcourt tune-up match before a forearm injury sidelined her.

On the other hand, Halep has lost three times in three months with a chance to claim the world number one ranking, falling in the French Open final and Wimbledon semi-finals and to Muguruza in the Cincinnati final.

– ‘A dark past’ at US Open –

Muguruza improved to 17-2 since the start of her London Grand Slam title run, but the 23-year-old Spaniard resists the notion she can be favored with a poor US Open history.

“Coming to US Open and having a dark past in the results, I keep it with low expectations,” Muguruza said. “I take every match as a final.”

US 10th seed John Isner blasted 22 aces in eliminating France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Herbert won 14 points in a row at one stage, including the final 12 of the third set, but Isner took the next 10 and advanced to a second-round affair with South Korea’s Chung Hyeon.

“I was playing well out there,” Isner said. “He won the third set but I just had to have faith in what I was doing and I’m moving on.”

AFP

Tennis Stars Sharapova, Keys And Pouille At Paris Photocall

Maria SharapovaTennis stars Maria Sharapova, Madison Keys and Lucas Pouille were in Paris on Tuesday (May 23) for a photocall, just days before the French Open begins.

Russian Sharapova was snubbed by organisers of the tournament who refused to give her a wild card. She was nonetheless in the French capital as part of a marketing event for Evian mineral water along with 22-year-old U.S. star Keys and 23-year-old Frenchman Pouille.

Keys, who is ranked 13th in the world, told Reuters she was excited about playing her first grand slam of the season after missing the Australian Open due to wrist surgery.

France said it was heightening security at sports and cultural events on Tuesday, including at the Roland Garros tennis stadium, in light of an attack at a British concert hall which left 22 people dead.

Pouille, who is the third-ranked French male player after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Montils, said he expected the atmosphere at the French Open to be “tense” in light of the attack.

The 2016 singles quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and the U.S. open said he had recovered from a foot injury which affected him in the Australian Open. He told Reuters he felt pressure playing in a French tournament which has not been won by a French man for over three decades.

Organisers of the Evian event declined Reuters’ request to interview Sharapova, who won the French Open in 2012 and 2014 but was hit with a 15-month doping ban last year.