September 4, 2017
Maria Sharapova and Garbine Muguruza, two of the favourites for the US Open, have crashed out at Flushing Meadows, to the surprise of many.
Sharapova had won her first set against the Latvian 16th seed, Anastasija Sevastova 7-5, and looked most likely to progress.
But the less well-known woman roared back to win the next two 6-4, 6-2, despite the superstar saving three match points.
In the end, it was probably the lack of matches since her doping ban that caught up with Maria, who was nevertheless delighted to have had a taste of the big time once more.
Sharapova said: ‘It’s been a really great ride in the last week. I can take a lot from it. It’s great to get that first major out of the way. It was an incredible opportunity and I’m thankful for it. I did my best. I can be proud of that.’
The fact that she was given a wild card and such a great chance to demonstrate her skills on a show-court at a Grand Slam had caused resentment among some of the other players. But the crowd greeted Sharapova warmly and appreciated her fighting spirit in every match.
Unfortunately for Maria, that fighting spirit wasn’t enough on its own to sustain her challenge at the US Open.
Muguruza’s defeat was to the two-time Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova. The Spaniard’s phsycological approach isn’t always right for New York, where she doesn’t seem to enjoy the cacophony of noise.
But there was nothing wrong with the way Muguruza started, because she was soon racing to a 4-1 lead in the first set, before the tables were turned and she lost a tie-break 7-3.
Kvitova is made of stern stuff and it was only a few months ago that she survived an incident which could have been life-threatening. Last December she was attacked by a burglar in her own home. A deep cut to her hand, sustained during a scuffle with the thief, could have ended her career completely.
Less than a year later, Kvitova was locked in a powerful battle with Muguruza at the US Open – and came out on top to close out the match 6-3.
Muguruza acknowledged generously: ‘I felt she was superior today.’
Kvitova said later: ‘Sometimes I just really feel as though the touch is there. It took me a while to find it, but hopefully I’ll keep it for the rest of the tournament.’
If she does, Kvitova will take some beating at this year’s intriguing US Open.
Next up is living legend Venus Williams, in what should be a bruising encounter. The winner could even take the title.