Maria Sharapova marked her first Grand Slam appearance since her doping ban ended with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over second seed Simona Halep at the US Open and said she had never been tempted to quit the sport.
The 30-year-old five-time major winner and former world number one was hit by a 15-month suspension after failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open.
The ban ended in April but she missed this year’s French Open and Wimbledon tournaments.
“You try and think it’s another day, another opportunity but it was so much more,” said Sharapova, who fell to her knees in tears after securing a thrilling triumph, her seventh in seven meetings with Halep.
“You never know how you are going to feel until match point but you figure it’s all worth it.”
Sharapova, who needed a wild card to get into the tourmanent she won in 2006 after her world ranking slumped to 146, told her critics that she had no intention of giving up on her career.
“Behind this little black dress and the Swarovski crystals, there is a girl with a lot of grit and she’s not going anywhere.”
That was a reference to the eye-catching all-black and sequined playing gear she was wearing for the occasion.
The crystals were a perfect teaser for the TV cameras for the night session on Arthur Ashe stadium where her record under the lights now stands at 18-0.
“It’s prime time baby!” she said with a smile.
“Sometimes you wonder why you put in all the hard work – this is exactly why.”
Sharapova ended with 60 winners and 64 unforced errors and converting just five of her 22 break opportunities.
“Simona and I have so much respect for each other,” she said.
“It’s always tough. I knew I would have to work for it.”
Nick Kyrgios defeated Spain’s David Ferrer 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) at the ATP Cincinnati Masters to book a Sunday finals date with 11th-ranked Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in a matchup of Masters finals debutantes.
On a television camera lens, Kyrgios wrote “74 + 89 R.I.P.” in tribute to grandmother Julianah Foster, who died in 2014 at 74, and grandfather Christos Kyrgios, who died in April.
“He never missed a match. That was one thing,” Kyrgios said. “And my grandma that passed away, she was pretty much my mum for the most part of my life. I have been pretty crazy ever since she left. They were unbelievable support. It was tough. I can’t really talk about it too much.”
Meanwhile, after losing to Kyrgios, Ferrer said the Aussie could someday be number one.
“Nick is young guy. He’s a nice guy. He’s improving every year and he’s the future,” Ferrer said. “He will have a lot of chances to be number one in the world and to win Grand Slams, but depends of his mentality.”
Finding the motivation for number one to matter might be Kyrgios’ toughest task.
“It’s just hard for me to take the game seriously at times. If I’m number one or number 500, I’m just a tennis player,” Kyrgios said. “I don’t really want to be remembered as an unbelievable tennis player. I would rather be remembered as someone who was kind to people and stuff like that.”
At Washington, Kyrgios was at a low point. “I wasn’t feeling confident,” he said. “I wasn’t tanking, but I was mentally not there. I was going through a lot of stuff. (Now) I’m in the final of a Masters event. I wouldn’t have (predicted) that, no way.”
‘I’M STILL FEELING PAIN’
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) August 20, 2017
Especially with his sore hip. “I’m rehabbing every day. I’m getting treatment for it. I’m seeing progress. It’s good enough to play,” he said.
“I’m still feeling pain in my hip. I’m not going to act as if it’s 100 percent. I’m just pushing through it.”
Kyrgios has support. He’ll train next week with US standout Jack Sock in Kansas City. At the US Open in New York, coach Sebastien Grosjean will meet him. Aussie doubles pal Matt Reid will be there too.
“From where I was in Washington to where I am now, he has been a big part of that,” Kyrgios said. “He puts me in a good head space, takes my mind off things a little bit… just keeps me grounded.” His Malaysian mother, Nill, is watching this week also.
“To have my mum there is unbelievable,” Kyrgios said. “She does little things like my washing. She loves to travel with me and see me play… and obviously me having success is really good for her to see.”
Wimbledon champion Roger Federer stayed on course for his third Rogers Cup title after defeating Dutchman Robin Haase 6-3 7-6 (7/5) to reach Sunday’s final in Montreal.
The Swiss second seed turned 36 earlier in the week and is back in action for the first time since his success over Marin Cilic at the All England Club, where he won a record eighth singles title.
Federer, who is hoping to close up on Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray the top of the world rankings with, broke back against Haase early in the first set to establish a 4-1 advantage, which he never looked like relinquishing.
Haase, the world number 52, made a contest of it in the second set as he held serve in a crucial 11th game which then brought up a tie-break.
Federer moved 4-1 ahead after securing a couple of mini-breaks, only for Haase to respond again by taking the next two points against serve and then moved 5-4 ahead.
However, Federer’s experience – having last won the tournament in 2006 and since been a beaten finalist on three occasions – saw him through as the world number three held twice to set up a match point, which he converted against the Haase serve at the first time of asking.
He will face either Alexander Zverev or Denis Shapovalov in the final.