Maria Sharapova says she is no night owl, but you don’t want to bet against her playing in prime time at the U.S. Open.
When she defeated No. 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3, 6-2, in the the first night match on Ashe Saturday, she ran her record to 22-0 in night matches.
“I’m usually in bed by 9:30 or 10,” Sharapova said.
So she had to stay up past her bed time to defeat Ostapenko in a rather ragged affair. Sharapova was helped greatly by Ostapenko’s off-kilter serve. That showed up at the start when the two played a 12-minute, nine-deuce first game on Ostapenko’s serve. Ostapenko managed to win it, but she was broken seven times over the two sets and only managed to win 17 of 40 first serves and 12 of 31 on her second serve.
But the Ashe crowd is generally behind her, and she again used it as an alarm clock.
“I don’t remember how old I was when I played my first night match, but I’m sure I was young enough to still be intimidated by the city and the lights and the atmosphere, the noise, as anyone that’s quite young would be,” the 2006 Open champion said. “But I really turned that around. I think I thrive on that. I love the atmosphere.”
Sharapova was 19 years old when she won that Open. Now as a 31-year-old she’s trying to piece together a career that was interrupted by a doping suspension from early 2016 to the spring of 2017.
The only Grand Slam she played last year was the Open on a wild card, and she reached the round of 16, which she did on Saturday with the win. She faces Carla Suarez Navarro next.
Keys locks in after first set. In a day match on Ashe, Madison Keys dropped the first set to Aleksandra Krunic, and knew something had to change.
Last year’s losing Open finalist couldn’t be letting the unseeded Krunic control the match on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I think the biggest thing was I had to kind of figure out a way to get her off of the baseline as much,” Keys said. “I think in the first set she was holding her ground really well and kind of dictating the points.
“You know, when I’m playing tennis, I want to be the one that’s dictating points and the one that’s not running as much. That was the biggest adjustment I had to make.”
So, what did you do?
“It’s making more first serves, or today a big one was making more returns and making her play the ball,” Keys said. “More than that, it was just trusting my shots and going for it when I had it.”
It worked rather well as dictated the match the rest of the way for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win that puts her through to the round of 16 where she will play Dominika Cibulkova.