Sharapova returned to the U.S. Open last night with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Tsvetana Pironkova, a solid performance for the 2006 champion who had to skip last year because of a shoulder injury.
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Ivanovic, briefly the No. 1 player in the world in 2008 after winning the French Open, was ousted by Kateryna Bondarenko, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7). It ended a summer, really a whole year, of frustration for Ivanovic, who left the court with a weepy face and weary disposition.
Sharapova got the match she needed, an easy entry into the two-week grind of the Open for a player without much match time this year. Her surgically repaired shoulder appeared to be just that, repaired.
Pironkova showed some spunk early but Sharapova got her timing down, her serve working and her feet in motion toward the end of the first set and never let up. "I played a tricky opponent who doesn't give you much rhythm," Sharapova said. "It was just really important to stay on top of her and do the right things from the beginning. I had a little bit of a slow start but once I got going, I was able to do a good job of maintaining."
Sharapova also sported her new Tiffany & Co. earrings designed by noted international architect Frank Gehry, who designed the Getty Museum in Los Angeles among other notable buildings. "When Tiffany approached me and told me that he wanted to work on my earrings for the U.S. Open, I was completely blown away," Sharapova said.
Nothing was so glamorous for Ivanovic last night. Bondarenko, wearing enough tape around her left thigh to wrap a pro football team's ankles, basically had control of the match after the first set. Ivanovic committed a bunch of easy unforced errors and did little on her serve. With Bondarenko wincing in pain and occasionally limping, it looked like she would have to whither. Ivanovic held a match point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker and committed yet another forehand error. From that point, she was out of it, and eventually out of the Open.
Jankovic looked fit, trim and in control. She abandoned a weightlifting program at the beginning of the year that put on some pounds (denying that the culprit was a love of chocolate). "I had a lot of kilos, more than usual," she said. "Which is like 15 pounds. It made me much slower. I felt really awkward on the court. Now I lost the weight . . . I play my best tennis when I'm light on my feet, when I'm dynamic, when I can move."
Never one to underestimate herself, Jankovic said: "My level of tennis is rising and I think I am getting more and more dangerous."