Former world No 1 Maria Sharapova rallied to reach the third round of the US Open on Wednesday while a right shoulder injury sent Australian 14th seed Nick Kyrgios packing.
Sharapova, who downed second-ranked Simona Halep in her first Grand Slam match after a 15-month doping ban, defeated Hungary’s 59th-ranked Timea Babos 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-1 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I felt like going into the match I just wanted to get it done,” Sharapova said.
“It wasn’t my best tennis. It was scrappy tennis but sometimes those kind of matches are a lot of fun and this was one of those days.”
The 30-year-old Russian became the first player into the third round at Flushing Meadows. She will next face an American, either Sofia Kenin or Sachia Vickery, for a berth in the last 16.
Sharapova, whose five Grand Slam titles include the 2006 US Open, tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, her most recent Grand Slam appearance until this week.
“Every day I have the chance I have to play out here at the US Open is a special day and I’ll look forward to the next one,” Sharapova said.
Kyrgios, the 14th seed and highest-ranked obstacle in Roger Federer’s quarterfinal path, hurt his shoulder in a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 first-round loss to 235th-ranked Aussie John Millman.
“Early in the third set I hit one serve and I never felt the same after that,” Kyrgios said. “Something didn’t feel right in my arm.”
There were 87 matches on Wednesday’s agenda after 55 rain postponements from Tuesday as the first round concluded and second began on the New York hardcourts.
Sharapova, ranked 146th, fired 12 aces with 39 winners and 36 unforced errors. She played only one Open tuneup match due to a forearm injury but wore down Halep and Babos to show everyone she is truly a threat for a deep run.
Sharapova dropped the last two tie-break points on errant forehands to hand Babos the first set. Sharapova broke to open the second, double faulted away a break in the fourth game, then broke again in the seventh and held twice to force a third set.
“In the second set I felt like I was physically fresh and that gave me a lot of confidence,” Sharapova said. “I just wanted to be the fittest player out there in the end and I think I was.”
Sharapova broke to open the third set and again for a 4-1 edge when Babos netted a forehand drop volley and again on match point when Babos sent a backhand wide.
‘ARM IS TOTALLY DEAD’
Kyrgios, 22, beat Rafael Nadal two weeks ago on the way to the biggest final of his career at the ATP Cincinnati Masters before falling to Grigor Dimitrov.
Kyrgios grabbed his right shoulder after a serve in the fourth game of the third set, having a ballboy grab his right arm to try and ease the pain at one stage.
Kyrgios then told a physiotherapist his woes during a medical timeout.
“One serve and arm is totally dead. It’s so dead and numb. It’s incredibly weak,” said Kyrgios. “How can something happen all of a sudden? I wasn’t feeling it at all and then Bang, one serve. I lost power in my serve.”
After his last available treatment, Kyrgios dropped eight of the last nine games to Millman, back after missing nearly eight months with a hip injury.
“Nick’s shoulder deteriorated as the match went on,” Millman said after his first US Open triumph. “It’s a victory but slightly hollow.
“He’s a teammate. He’s a great guy on and off the court. I feel for him. I really do.”
Austrian sixth seed Dominic Thiem finished off Australian Alex de Minaur 6-4, 6-1, 6-1. The two-time French Open semifinalist is the highest-ranked rival to Federer and Nadal on their side of the draw.
“I’m not in the first row of favourites, maybe in the second, so I can play calm,” Thiem said.
KUZNETSOVA, SVITOLINA WIN
Russian eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open champion, rescued three match points in defeating 67th-ranked Czech Marketa Vondrousova 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) in their first-round match.
Kuznetsova is among seven women who could become world No 1 after the US Open. So is Ukraine’s fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina, who held off 42nd-ranked Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-0, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3.
Svitolina dropped six of nine tie-breaker points when her match resumed but battled through the third set into the second round.