Sharapova tested as US Open off to sunny start
NEW YORK, Aug 30 — Maria Sharapova survived an early scare at the US Open yesterday after Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was bounced from the year’s final grand slam, which began on time and under perfect sunny, blue skies.
It was business as usual at the National Tennis Centre in New York as the earthquake that rattled the US East Coast last week and the deadly hurricane that killed at least 21 people were instantly forgotten.
Thousands of spectators streamed the gates at Flushing Meadows on a glorious summer day while players who spent most of the weekend in their Manhattan hotels bounded on to the courts to weather their own storms.
Former champion Sharapova was given the honour of being one of the first players on Arthur Ashe centre court.
As expected, the Russian made it safely through to the next round, beating British teenager Heather Watson 3-6 7-5 6-3, but it was an unconvincing performance.
Watson won the junior title two years ago and was making her first appearance in the senior draw but she was able to frustrate and torment the more experienced Sharapova for more than two and a half hours before she finally succumbed.
Czech Kvitova, the fifth seed, left the Louis Armstrong court almost sobbing after falling 7-6 6-3 to unseeded Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru.
Kvitova has been a marked woman since her surprising win at Wimbledon in July but this time she was the architect of her own downfall, making a whopping 52 unforced errors.
Her early exit has further opened up a women’s draw which was already looming as one of the most unpredictable in years.
Kim Clijsters, the champion in each of the past two years, is missing because of injury and there are plenty of unanswered questions about the older brigade.
Sharapova has not won a grand slam since 2008. Serena Williams is back at the US Open for the first time in two years and her older sister Venus is not seeded.
But they have been installed as favourites, mostly because their younger rivals have yet to win a grand slam, including current world number one Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva, the number two from Russia.
Both have had come close. Zvonareva was a finalist at Wimbledon and the US Open last year and made a bright start to her latest US Open campaign when she thumped Stephanie Foretz Gacon of France 6-3 6-0.
Switzerland’s five-time champion Roger Federer, the third seed, was due to play in the night session along with Venus Williams, following as official opening ceremony that will be attended by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Although she was not playing, Serena Williams also made her first return to Flushing Meadows since her foul-mouthed exit in 2009 to speak to the media after her weekend news conference was cancelled because of the approaching storm.
The American was fined after infamously threatening a line judge during her loss to eventual champion Clijsters. She did not play last year because of a foot injury.
Quizzed at a news conference on Monday about her actions from two years ago, Williams remained coy about the incident.
“I don’t think about it. Are you still thinking about it?” she said. “That was like two years ago. This is like two years later.” — Reuters