After throwing out first pitch at Mets game, Simona Halep braces for first-round match with Maria Sharapova | Zagsblog
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Thursday / October 28.
  • After throwing out first pitch at Mets game, Simona Halep braces for first-round match with Maria Sharapova

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    NEW YORK — Simona Halep admitted to being nervous before throwing out the first pitch before the Mets game at Citi Field on Tuesday night.

    “My hand was shaking,” the world’s No. 2 player told reporters.

    Her throw ended up bouncing before it got to the catcher, but all things considered she did pretty well.

    Halep may be equally nervous early next week when she plays her first-round match at the US Open against Maria Sharapova, who was granted a wildcard after a 15-month doping suspension.

    It will be interesting to see how fans react to Sharapova in the first night match on Monday.

    “Facing her, I’m, like, it’s going to be a big challenge, first round of Grand Slam to face her,” said Halep, who is 0-6 against the Russian in her career. “She beat me six times. So maybe I will change this. We will see Monday.

    “I just want to do my best, to try to win the match and of course to enjoy it. It’s a big, big match.”

    Yes, it is. Arguably the most intriguing first-round match on either side of the draw.

    “I don’t think any tennis fan in the world is not going to have that match on,” American Madison Keys said. “Let’s be honest.”

    Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, was issued a two-year suspension after testing positive for the banned heart and blood boosting drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the ban on appeal.

    She said that she had taken it for several years and did not know it had been placed on the banned list at the start of 2016.

    Sharapova made her return in April at Stuttgart, reaching the semifinals as a wildcard, but such invitations sparked criticism from some WTA rivals, saying she should have to work her way back without such benefits, some suggesting a life ban.

    Sharapova was refused a wildcard by French Open organizers and missed Wimbledon with a thigh injury. A forearm injury has limited her to one US Open hardcourt tuneup match.

    “About wildcard, the tournament decided, so they can do anything they want,” Halep said. “Is not my position to talk about this.

    “She’s coming back. She’s strong enough to come back, in my opinion. She has a lot of experience, and also many tournaments won.”

    Sharapova has won a career Grand Slam, but may be rusty given her lack of recent match play.

    “To be completely honest with you, I haven’t seen much of her playing this year,” Keys said. “But I think we all knew it was inevitable that she’d be back in majors and playing. I’m sure this first round is going to be interesting.”

    Garbine Muguruza, the No. 3 seed and among the favorites to win the Open, said she thought Sharapova’s return was good for the tournament.

    “I think she’s a fighter, you know, great attitude, big fight, spirit in the court,” she said.

    Asked about Sharapova getting a wildcard, she added: “When someone has been — I don’t know if it’s banned, the word, or, like, out of competition — I think you have to work for it, you know, a little bit to go and play your tournaments. You’ve got to work hard and deserve it again. I think that’s the way.”

    (Reuters contributed reporting)

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.