Maria Sharapova’s Grand Slam return after a 15-month doping ban ended in the US Open fourth round Sunday with the former world number one losing to Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova.
The 30-year-old Russian star, whose five Grand Slam titles include the 2006 US Open, fell 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to Sevastova, who booked a Tuesday quarter-final matchup against American Sloane Stephens.
Sharapova, who returned to the tour in April after her suspension ended, had defeated world number two Simona Halep in the first round and was being spoken about as a potential title contender.
But despite pocketing the first set, her challenge fizzled out when she needed a medical timeout to treat a blister on her right hand.
She finished with 42 winners but 51 unforced errors against Sevastova, who also made the quarter-finals in 2016.
“Playing on Ashe stadium is an amazing atmosphere, every time. It’s fun to play here,” said 27-year-old Sevastova, who took victory on a fourth match point when Sharapova pushed a service return wide.
“The first set was very close. It could have gone either way. She played unbelievable throughout the first and second set and I just kept fighting, running for every ball.
“The emotions were high when I was 5-2 up in the final set. I wanted to close it so much.”
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer edged closer to a US Open semi-final blockbuster on Saturday as controversial Italian Fabio Fognini was kicked out for a vile, misogynistic tirade at a female umpire.
Nadal, 31, saw off Argentine lucky loser Leonardo Mayer 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, taking his record over the world number 59 from Buenos Aires to 4-0.
He will face Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov, against whom he is 6-2, for a place in the quarter-finals.
Five-time champion Federer brushed aside 31st seed Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 to take his career record against the Spaniard, playing a 63rd successive Grand Slam, to 13-0.
Next up for Federer is Philipp Kohlschreiber, who he leads 11-0.
Nadal had dropped the first set of his second-round match against Japan’s Taro Daniel before winning in four.
Saturday was almost a carbon copy with the 15-time major winner unable to convert any of six points in the opener.
But the match turned in the 10-minute seventh game of the second set when, on his 14th break point of the encounter, Nadal finally smashed through.
“It was tough. It took 14 break points — that’s not a good figure. But I was there mentally and fought a lot at the right moments,” said Nadal under the Arthur Ashe roof as rain fell outside.
Federer had needed back-to-back five-setters to defeat Frances Tiafoe and Mikhail Youzhny in his first two rounds.
However, on Saturday, he swept past Lopez to reach the fourth round for the 16th time.
“I’m very happy to get through. It’s a great feeling to play out here,” said Federer.
“I struggled in the first two rounds but tonight I played a very clean match.”
Kohlschreiber, the German 33rd seed, eliminated Australia’s John Millman 7-5, 6-2, 6-4.
Austrian sixth seed Dominic Thiem defeated France’s Adrian Mannarino 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to make the last 16 for the third time in four years.
Thiem next faces 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, who put out Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
Russia’s Andrey Rublev became the second teenager in the last 16 when he beat Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
Rublev, just 19, faces Belgian ninth seed David Goffin, who progressed when 2016 semi-finalist Gael Monfils retired with a right knee injury.
Meanwhile, Fognini was kicked out of the tournament for making foul-mouthed comments to female umpire Louise Engzell during his first-round loss to Stefano Travaglia.
Fognini and compatriot Simone Bolelli had reached the third round of the men’s doubles but tournament organizers axed him from the event. The world No26 was also fined $24,000.
Women’s top seed Karolina Pliskova saved a match point to defeat China’s Zhang Shuai, hanging on to her world number one spot in the process.
Top seed Pliskova, the runner-up in 2016, triumphed 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 but was forced to save a match point in the 10th game of the second set and recover from a break down in the decider.
“I was match point down and I thought I haven’t tried many forehand winners down the line. That’s what I did. I may not have got another chance,” said the 25-year-old, who will next face Jennifer Brady of the United States.
Brady has just seven wins on the tour this year, but all have come at the Slams.
Had she lost on Saturday, Pliskova would also have been guaranteed to lose her world number one ranking to either Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza or Elina Svitolina.
Ukraine fourth seed Svitolina stayed in contention with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Shelby Rogers of the United States.
Russia’s Daria Kasatkina reached the last 16 of a major for the first time by seeing off French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, the 12th seed, 6-3, 6-2.
Alexandr Dolgopolov shrugged off the gambling controversy hanging over him to reach the fourth round of the US Open on Saturday, matching his best New York showing in the process.
The 64th-ranked Ukrainian needed only 82 minutes to dispatch 52nd-ranked Serbian Viktor Troicki 6-1, 6-0, 6-4, and reach his first Grand Slam last 16 since the 2011 US Open.
But his achievements have been overshadowed by concerns over suspicious gambling patterns around his 6-3, 6-3 loss last week to 114th-ranked Thiago Monteiro in the first round at Winston-Salem Open.
It was the Brazilian’s first ATP hardcourt triumph and came without Dolgolpolov managing a break-point chance, a poor showing he blamed on heavy training for the US Open that left him drained and tired.
Dolgopolov denied involved in any match-fix plot and said upon arriving in New York he went to the Tennis Integrity Unit, which investigates match-fix and betting issues.
“That’s why we have the TIU. If there’s some strange matches, they investigate it,” Dolgopolov said.
“I wasn’t happy with what’s going on in the press, so I was the first one to come there and try to give them all the information so they can investigate it faster.
“They asked me about some information. They interviewed me. That’s it. That’s all I can do.”
Asked about the probe’s impact on him, Dolgopolov said, “Not much. I’m doing well. Obviously it’s disappointing, but not more. If people want to write something, they write something. You can’t stop them from doing it. It’s just not under my control.”
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 2, 2017
The New York Times reported analysts tracking betting patterns found an unusually high amount of money being wagered against Dolgopolov on Monteiro, who went from underdog to favorite when the match began as a result, the quick shift prompting bookmakers to suspend bets on the match.
They also found dubious betting patterns the same day in a WTA New Haven qualifying loss by Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko, according to the report.
“You cannot be perfect every week. So, for sure, you can see bad matches, players playing bad. But if there is gambling involved, it’s not for me to say. I don’t think about that,” said Dolgopolov.
The report said Dolgopolov denied being approached to fix a match, saying, “No, not really. I don’t have a lot of friends on social networks.”
Dolgopolov, who could face top-ranked Rafael Nadal next, captured his third career ATP title and first since 2012 in February at Buenos Aires but has been nagged by injuries in 2017.
He retired from five matches due to hip, right leg and right ankle issues, withdrawing from three tournaments and playing only three pre-Open hard court tune-up matches.
Asked for a second day if gamblers ever asked him to throw a match, Dolgopolov grew irate.
“You’re going all over it again. You’re giving me the same questions. I’m here not to talk about betting. I already said everything that could be said, and you guys want to give me again the same questions,” Dolgopolov said.
“Read about what I said in the first day. I arrived here to talk about tennis, not gambling… I’m not commenting on gambling anymore.”