Maria Sharapova wins again at US Open, dream run remains alive | Zagsblog
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Sunday / June 23.
  • Maria Sharapova wins again at US Open, dream run remains alive

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    NEW YORK — Once again Maria Sharapova had to go three sets at the US Open.

    And once again she emerged victorious.

    Two days after taking out No. 2 seed Simona Halep in an electric night match in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 30-year-old Russian rebounded to take out Hungarian Timea Babos, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-1 in 2 hours, 19 minutes to advance to the third round on Friday.

    Sharapova, the owner of five Grand Slam titles and a career Slam, will meet American wildcard Sofia Kenin in the third round on Friday.

    “One match at a time,” Sharapova said in her on-court interview. “I know that’s a very boring answer but that’s what it really is. Every day that I have the chance to play out here at the US Open is a special day and I’ll look forward to the next one.”

    Sharapova, the 2006 US Open champ, is playing here as a wildcard after a 15-month doping ban. This is her first appearance in the year’s final Slam since 2014.

    After the match, she was greeted with several questions about her status, including three straight inquiries on how many drug tests she’s had in 2017.

    “I think the ITF can give you a number,” she said at first, referring to the International Tennis Federation.

    Told the ITF doesn’t have the numbers, she twice said, “At the end of the year, you’ll be able to find out.”

    Some players, most notably Genie Bouchard, have come out and said Sharapova didn’t deserve a wild card because she allegedly cheated. Asked how she’s treated by other players, Sharapova put a positive spin on it: ” I mean, I definitely feel the respect from the athletes. Certainly when I play against them, in terms of the level they play with. That’s important to me. I think from a respect level, when you’re able to respect your rivals and compatriots, that’s really important, and I feel that.”

    Roger Federer came back this year to win the Australian Open and Wimbledon after a six-month layoff due to a knee injury. Sharapova missed 15 months. Does she feel she can make similar inroads in her return?

    “Well, what he’s done is incredible,” she said. “I think not just myself, but a lot of people can take a lot of inspiration and motivation from what he’s done. That’s very special to see, just the passion with which he still plays and the level and the quality and the consistency. Those are all things at his age, after everything he’s accomplished, personally that’s what I always see in champions, in Roger and Rafa, Serena and Venus, that they’re still able to produce, not just produce that type of tennis but want to be there and want to compete and want to win. They’ve done it, they’ve been around the world, done it over and over again. To have that passion I think is what makes it so special.”

    Against Babos, Sharapova dropped the first set in a tiebreaker when she sailed a forehand long on set point.

    But then she regrouped to break Babos early in the second set for a quick 2-0 lead. After surrendering three straight games to fall to 2-3, she battled back to even the match at 6-4.

    “I think in the second set I just felt like I was physically fresh,” she said. “And that gave me a lot of confidence. I know I played a lot of tennis in the last couple days compared to what I’ve played in the last few months and I just used that as confidence. I know she had a tough match going into the secod round and I just wanted to be the fittest player out there in the end and I really felt like I was.”

    Whether she’s fit enough to make a deep run here remains in question. She appears to have a winnable draw until the semifinals when she could potentially face No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza, the Wimbledon champ.

    “There are so many [top players] now that are fighting for the same,” Muguruza said on Monday. “We are all very close, very equal. There are going to be some surprises, as always.”

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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.

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