Maria Sharapova knocks out second seed Simona Halep on grand slam return

Frances Tiafoe US Open

One of those surprises occurred later Monday night when Maria Sharapova, who was granted a wildcard into the Open after serving a 15-month doping ban, stunned No. 2 Simona Halep, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, in a thrilling match that lasted almost three hours and was more worthy of a semifinal or a final than a first-round encounter.

The 30-year-old Sharapova, who returned to tournament play in April after a 15-month suspension for performance-enhancing drug use, is now ranked 146th, but she received a wild-card entry into the U.S. Open.

Yet the absence of numerous most reliable performers in the men's game could also open the door for an emerging group of young talents including 20-year-old Alexander Zverev, world No8 Dominic Thiem and American teenager Frances Tiafoe to significantly boost their earnings.

The Czech 12th seed initially flourished on her comeback from the horrific hand injuries she suffered when an intruder attacked her with a knife at her home last December.

But perhaps the best moment of the night was Sharapova's proclamation in her on-court interview: "Behind all these Swarovski crystals and little black dresses is a girl with a lot of grit, and she's not going anywhere". The ban kept her out of action in NY past year, and a right leg injury found her sidelined in 2015. "It's prime time, baby. I like better to play in the afternoon".

"I just thought that this was another day, another opportunity, another match". He interspersed lovely drop shots with powerful groundstrokes, bringing the match back level after Thompson claimed the first two sets.

Halep gave herself credit for battling back from 4-1 down in the second set to force a third.

In all, Sharapova had 60 winners to only 15 for Halep, an indication of how much more aggressive the Russian was in winning the match.

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"First round's always, you know, tricky", Wozniacki said after beating the qualifier Buzarnescu.

"It nearly seemed like I had no right to win this match today". And I somehow did. She has a lot of experience, and many tournaments won, so I think she's okay ... she beat me six times. Down 0-30 in the ninth game, she came back to gain the advantage on a backhand victor and won on an error by Halep.

Many fans - and players, and even people in the game - feel Sharapova has no business getting wild cards as she works her way back from the suspension.

"I think, yeah, it was not my day, completely not my day today", Kerber said. Sharapova was only in the tournament because she was granted a wild card spot - something the last two Grand Slam tournaments - the French Open and Wimbledon - did not grant her after she was suspended for 15 months for taking the drug meldonium. Halep blinked at the end of the hour-long first set, double-faulting to face a break point, then watching Sharapova punish a 71 mph second serve with a forehand return victor.

Her last major title came in 2014, when she won the French Open. Although Sharapova had four break points when Halep served at 5-4 the world No 2 held firm and converted her first set point with a service victor.

After defeating Halep, the Russian could reach the quarter-finals without facing any other players in the top-ten.

And what of Halep, who two weeks ago was one win away from coming into the US Open as the top seed and the new world No. 1?


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