Sharapova insists she’s still Grand Slam force despite Wimbledon misery

Virginia Santiago
July 6, 2018

Since returning to the WTA last April after serving a 15-month suspension for taking the controlled drug meldonium, the Russian superstar has struggled with injuries, was denied a wild card to play in the 2017 French Open and didn't even request one previous year for Wimbledon. Monday saw the exit of US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Top 5 stalwart Elina Svitolina.

Sharapova was cruising to victory at one stage against world No 132 Diatchenko on Court Two with a set and 5-2 lead before the latter shrugged off a back injury to win 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 after more than three hours of tense action.

On Tuesday on the No 1 Court, Sasnovich beat two-time Wimbledon champion and a heavy tournament favourite, Petra Kvitova in usually Kvitova-friendly three sets.

Now into her stride, Halep made sure to make her opponent pay, serving well to maintain her lead, with Nara's overpowered forehand shot securing the world number one's passage to the second round.

"I'm just happy to be through of course and yes, this match gives me positive feelings", said Nadal after seeing off world number 127 Sela. [It] was a first round.

Kvitova said: "The nerves were there again".

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After the 36-year-old American won the 2017 Australian Open, five different players won the next five women's majors. The Russian kept her cool, however, to hold serve and then break Wozniacki, winning 6-4 1-6 7-5.

"Probably I was the biggest opponent I could have". Also Tuesday, No. 7 Dominic Thiem, the French Open runner-up last month, quit because of a bad back while down two sets and a break, and No. 10 David Goffin was beaten, a day after No. 6 Grigor Dimitrov lost. "In the third, I think it was just too quickly when [Sasnovich] was on the board, and I just couldn't handle it any more".

Though Sharapova has an huge edge in Grand Slam experience it was the lower-ranked Russian who kept cool at crunch time. "Everyone is equal here; everyone wants to win", Sasnovich said. Then, Sharapova, the 2004 champion, clinched the tiebreak with a powerful serve.

Russia´s Maria Sharapova returns to Russia´s Vitalia Diatchenko during their women´s singles first round match on the second day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 3, 2018.

Daniel wanted to watch Monday's roller-coaster match when Japan blew a 2-0 lead against Belgium in the round of 16 in Russian Federation, losing 3-2 with Nacer Chadli scoring a heartbreaking victor in the fourth minute of injury time. Instead she stayed with it and snatched the decider for the most important win of her career, not to mention some useful prize money. "She played extremely aggressive". It was a little bit of magic and hopefully I can do something out there tomorrow.

But she didn't, in part because Sharapova failed to win it. The numbers will tell you that it was a sloppy match all round - Sharapova would have clearly felt like Spain who crashed out of the World Cup against Russian Federation a few days ago - with Sharapova double faulting at match point.

Kvitova has been prolific on the WTA Tour, winning five titles this year, but is struggling to make the same impact at grand slams.

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"Kept doing that in the third, as well". But just, you know, sometimes you put yourself in a better or winning position, and you don't finish through.

That was the case today.

Fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev was also through after defeating James Duckworth of Australia 7-5 6-2 6-0.

Spain's Garbine Muguruza opened her title defence with a 6-2, 7-5 win over British wildcard Naomi Broady.

Making her return to Wimbledon after a drug suspension ruled her out in 2016 and an injury led to a qualifying withdrawal a year ago, Sharapova looked on course for victory with a set and 5-2 advantage. Some extended five-setters and a short rain delay slowed play on Day 3, but hopefully the tournament can get in all the matches it needs to on Thursday. Karolina Pliskova meets 2-time Slam victor Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki, Madison Keys and Agnieszka Radwanska are also in action.

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