Tearful Sharapova downs Halep in thrilling US Open return

Maria Sharapova marked her first Grand Slam appearance since her doping ban ended with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Romanian second seed Simona Halep at the US Open on Monday. Reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza advanced, while Johanna Konta was ousted.

Maria Sharapova, a former world No.1, was hit by a 15-month suspension after failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open.   -  AFP

Maria Sharapova marked her first Grand Slam appearance since her doping ban ended with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Romanian second seed Simona Halep at the US Open on Monday.

The 30-year-old five-time major winner and former world No.1 was hit by a 15-month suspension after failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open.

The ban ended in April but she missed this year’s French Open and Wimbledon tournaments.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza advanced and British seventh seed Johanna Konta was ousted.

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 hard court matches.

 

Muguruza, last year’s French Open champion, can reach the US Open third round for the first time 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.

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

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon runner-up, outlasted Slovakia's 135th-ranked Viktoria Kuzmova 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

Williams won only 4-of-16 break chances in the match but denied WTA-level debutant Kuzmova's four chances in the final set to advance.

Younger sister Serena Williams, a 23-time Slam champion on pregnancy leave, talks with Venus “only all the time” and warned her to be ready for a fight from Kuzmova.

“She gives me great advice,” said Venus.

Sharapova, whose major titles include the 2006 US Open, tested positive for the banned drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open but returned in April and was given a wildcard into the field.

Sharapova, ranked 146th, has played only one hardcourt tuneup match due to a forearm injury.

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.”