Maria Sharapova
Siberian Siren
Tennis Champion

Last updated: December 13, 2023 | Open Since: Feb 18, 2008 | Email Us: Here | Get a Free Email Account

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Maria Sharapova
Height: 6-2
Weight: 130
Birth Name: Maria Yuryevna Sharapova
Book (Hardcover): Unstoppable: My Life So Far
Book (Kindle): Unstoppable: My Life So Far
Book (Audio): Unstoppable: My Life So Far
Twitter: @MariaSharapova
Birth Date: Apr 19, 1987
Birth Place: Nyagan, Siberia, Russia
Home: Bradenton, Florida
Nicknames: Masha, Siberian Siren
Parents: Yuri and Yelena
Racquet: Prince O3 White
Clothing: Nike
Shoes: Nike Air Zoom Mystify II
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Trademark: Grunts loudly when striking the ball

2020 At A Glance

Current WTA Rank: 145
WTA Tournaments Played: 2
WTA Record: 0-2
Hardcourt: 0-2
Clay: 0-0
Carpet: 0-0
Grass: 0-0

Tournaments Won in 2020


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ESPN Pickleball Slam Encore Lands Four Sponsors for 2024

(12/13/23) ESPN’s first televised Pickleball Slam event was so successful this past April, the Worldwide Leader is coming back with Slam 2 on Feb. 4 from Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

John McEnroe and Andre Agassi return for round two, and they’ll be joined this time by Stefanie Graf and Maria Sharapova—so four tennis icons will be once again competing for a prize purse of $1 million.

Thanks to the popularity of the original event, key sponsors are lining up. Hard Rock, State Farm, Brighthouse Financial and Franklin Sports have all signed on as presenting sponsors of the 2024 version.

Horizon Sports & Experiences and InsideOut Sports + Entertainment made the announcement of that sponsorship lineup Wednesday.

All four sponsors will have significant individual branding rights on the court, benches, the non-volley zone near the net and the ball.

The original competition pitted McEnroe and Andy Roddick against Agassi and Michael Chang. The Agassi-Chang pairing squeezed out a doubles victory and thus won the coveted cash.

That matchup averaged 237,000 viewers among adults under 50. In doing so, it tied a Sunday NHL game on TNT between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues as the day’s fifth-highest watched sporting event.

When viewed within the context of that entire programming week (March 27-April 2), the Slam out-delivered 13 nationally televised MLB games, seven NBA matchups and five NHL games.

The 2024 event is slated for a live broadcast at 8:30 p.m. ET, and tickets are $46 each.

“After our inaugural event drew a capacity crowd and scored impressive viewership and social media attention, we have experienced unprecedented interest for Slam 2, evident by the support we have from our four initial outstanding presenting partners,” Neal Gluckman, head of sales at Horizon Sports & Experiences, said.

David Levy, the former longtime head of Turner Broadcasting, concocted the Pickleball Slam via his Horizon Sports & Experiences, which he launched in November 2022 with former Momentum Worldwide CEO Chris Weil.

While at Turner, Levy was behind the inaugural The Match, a golf tournament that originally pitted Tiger Woods against Phil Mickelson in a winner-take-all showdown, and that continues today with new players participating in each iteration.

“We took that same concept with the best racket players in sports—McEnroe, Agassi, Roddick and Chang—and put them in the fastest-growing sport in America right now with great brand names, and I think we have a magic formula there as well,” Levy said.

The latest Slam will provide a new wrinkle by adding two of the greatest women’s tennis players in history to the mix.

Slam 2 will have a doubles match featuring the duo of McEnroe and Sharapova, with a total of 12 Grand Slam singles titles between them, playing against the husband-and-wife team of Agassi and Graf, who earned a combined 30 Grand Slam singles titles during their respective careers.

“We are excited to return to the court alongside this strong group of companies who believe in this one-of-a-kind branding and proven customer engagement opportunity that only our platform can provide to fans in person and watching at home,” Gluckman said.

ESPN’s Pickleball Slam 2 Adds Twist to McEnroe v. Agassi

(7/18/22) ESPN’s first televised Pickleball Slam event was so successful this past April, the Worldwide Leader is coming back with Slam 2 in February.

John McEnroe and Andre Agassi return for the second edition, and they’ll be joined by Steffi Graf and Maria Sharapova, so that four tennis icons will be once again competing for a prize purse of $1 million.

The original Pickleball Slam competition saw McEnroe and Andy Roddick face off against Agassi and Michael Chang; Agassi and Chang squeezed out a doubles victory and won the coveted cash. That match-up averaged 237,000 viewers among adults under 50. In doing so, it tied a Sunday NHL game on TNT between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues as the day’s fifth-highest watched sporting event.

When viewed within the context of that entire programming week (March 27-April 2), the Slam out-delivered 13 nationally televised MLB games, seven NBA matchups and five NHL games.

David Levy, the former longtime head of Turner Broadcasting, concocted the Pickleball Slam via his Horizon Sports & Experiences, which he launched in November 2022 with former Momentum Worldwide CEO Chris Weil.

While at Turner, Levy was behind the inaugural The Match, a golf tournament that originally pitted Tiger Woods against Phil Mickelson in a winner-take-all showdown, and continues today with new players participating in each iteration.

“We took that same concept with the best racket players in sports—McEnroe, Agassi, Roddick and Chang—and put them in the fastest growing sport in America right now with great brand names, and I think we have a magic formula there as well,” Levy said.

The latest Slam will provide a new wrinkle by adding two of the greatest women tennis players in history to the mix. Slam 2 will have a doubles match featuring the duo of McEnroe and Sharapova, who have won a total of 12 Grand Slam singles titles between them, playing against Agassi and Graf, who earned a combined 30 Grand Slam singles titles during their respective careers and have been married since 2001.

The event is slated for live broadcast on Feb. 4 at 8:30 p.m. ET from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. Tickets for the event go on sale Tuesday and start at $46 each.

Maria Sharapova Comments on Serena Williams’ Final US Open Performance & Venus Williams’ Long Fight for Equal Pay

(9/13/22) Maria Sharapova has been retired from tennis since 2020, but that doesn’t mean she totally out of the game. Last week during New York Fashion Week, the athlete and entrepreneur sat down with fashion journalist Laura Brown, as part of the Glam Slam event series, the joint venture between IMG and Spring Studios in partnership with Chase Sapphire, to talk about the sport and style.

There, Sharapova spoke about rising tennis stars Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff, as well as the Williams sisters.

Sharapova and Serena Williams have had a long and compelling history as competitors, with Serena taking an 18-2 record against Sharapova throughout their careers.

“She deserved that moment,” Sharapova told Brown onstage about Serena’s final US Open match that took place earlier this month. “To see her shine and to see her perform. Watching her match at Wimbledon and losing early, I think that was actually the best gift because she wanted to come out much stronger than how she played at Wimbledon. So to see her elevate her game and compete and go out fighting, which she has done throughout her whole life with that grit and grace, was spectacular.”

During the event, Brown and Sharapova also discussed inequity in women’s sports — something the tennis star faced firsthand.

“I’ve seen it from the sidelines being a woman in a sport that didn’t have equal pay, that didn’t have equal rights… I witnessed Venus Williams fighting for equal prize money at every single one of her press conferences, every single one. You know how challenging but brave of her to show up and do that is?” she said.

Since then, Venus has been been an ardent advocate for change when it comes to raising awareness about the gender pay gap. And like Venus, Sharapova is also using her power and platform to support women.

“I want to grow into my business and invest in people and companies that I believe in, particularly in women. As we know, that is a space that is very challenged at the moment and not supported as much as it needs to be. So to always fight for that [in my sport], I feel like now that fight has transitioned into business for me.”

Outside of tennis, she has multiple business ventures and is an investor in companies such as Bala, Therabody, Supergoop and more. Last year, Sharapova invested equity stake in investment platform to help level the investing playing field for everyone, especially young women, and empower and bring more women into the public markets for the first time.

Maria Sharapova welcomes her first child with fiancé Alexander Gilkes: The most 'rewarding gift'

(7/15/22) (Photo) Maria Sharapova is ready to ace motherhood.

The tennis star, 35, announced on Instagram Friday that she and British businessman Alexander Gilkes, 42, welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Theodore.

"The most beautiful, challenging, and rewarding gift our little family could ask for," Sharapova wrote, was born on July 1.

The former No. 1 player announced her engagement to Gilkes in December 2020. The couple announced their pregnancy on Sharapova's 35th birthday in April.

"Precious beginnings!!! Eating birthday cake for two has always been my specialty," the five-time grand slam champions wrote on Instagram at the time.

Sharapova came into the spotlight when she beat former No. 1 seed Serena Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon singles final at age 17. She is one of only 10 women to win all four Grand Slams during her professional career.

In 2016, Sharapova was suspended from playing for two years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after she failed a drug test at the Australian Open. The Russian tennis star retired in February 2020 after playing one last Australian Open that January.

"In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life. I’ll miss it everyday," she announced in a guest column for Vanity Fair. "Looking back now, I realize that tennis has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible. After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, though, I’m ready to scale another mountain—to compete on a different type of terrain."

5-time Grand Slam champ Maria Sharapova says she is pregnant

(4/19/22) Maria Sharapova says she is pregnant.

The five-time Grand Slam tennis champion, who retired from the sport in February 2020, delivered the news via a social media post on Tuesday — her 35th birthday.

“Precious beginnings!!!” Sharapova wrote, adding: “Eating birthday cake for two has always been my specialty.”

She announced her engagement to Alexander Gilkes in December 2020.

Tennis Star Maria Sharapova Gets Equity Stake In Investing Platform

(12/6/21) The trading app is tailored toward breaking down barriers toward investing for young people.

Retired tennis champion Maria Sharapova is putting her money towards, an online trading platform tailored for young investors.

Sharapova acquired an equity stake of undisclosed size in, the company announced in a press release on Monday.

Launched out of New York in 2019, the platform is similar to Robinhood ( (HOOD) - Get Robinhood Markets, Inc. Class A Report) in that it lets users buy and sell stocks or cryptocurrencies online.

But is designed to reach those who may otherwise be left out of investing: young people, women and people of color and first-time investors.

The winner of five Grand Slam titles, Sharapova was a major name in tennis throughout the 2000s and is estimated to have earned over $325 million in various partnerships and sponsorships. According to Forbes, she was the highest-paid female athlete in the world for 11 consecutive years.

In the nearly three years since it launched, has raised $310 million from main investors such as Accel, Greycroft and Lake Star, as well as actor Will Smith and NFL player JJ Watt.

Neither Sharapova nor revealed how much she put toward the app.

As part of the partnership, Sharapova will also host events and advise NCAA student athletes on the app.

CNBC reported that the number of investors on's increased by 13 times in 2020.

"After winning my first Grand Slam at 17 years old, I was introduced to the business world at a young age with new brand deals and business opportunities,” said Sharapova. “It can be a very intimidating environment and one that I had to learn to navigate as just a teenager."

Maria Sharapova on why she invested in home fitness startup Tonal

(9/18/21) Maria Sharapova is a retired Russian professional tennis player. She was ranked No. 1 worldwide in singles by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) on five separate occasions, and she is one of 10 women to hold the career Grand Slam. She is also an Olympic medalist, winning a silver medal in women’s singles at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

In 2020, she retired from tennis at age 32. Beyond her investment in home fitness startup Tonal, Sharapova has put money in wellness brand Therabody and wearable weights company Bala Bangles.

Name of startup: Tonal

Year founded: 2018

Valuation: $1.6 billion

Investment level: Series E

Number of employees: 510

Location: San Francisco

Other major investors: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Serena Williams, Barry Bonds, Sue Bird, Michelle Wie, and Drew Brees

Why she invested, in her own words

I’ve always tried to avoid having a gym in my house, because my entire life had been built around working out and being fit. When I was home, I wanted it to be my sanctuary. Only to find out by 2020, my basement had become a gym, and my first piece of equipment was from Tonal. At the beginning of 2020, I was at a business conference, and there were a lot of founders and entrepreneurs in the health and wellness space. There was also a board member from Tonal at the event, who I had known for a few years. He told me about Tonal and put me in touch with Aly [Orady, Tonal’s founder and CEO].

During the conversations I had with Aly in the early stages, I felt that he had a vision in the fitness space, in particular with a focus on strength training. It was aligned with how I viewed it. In the early part of my career, fitness and strength training weren’t a big part of my training regime. I had spent a lot of time on the tennis court. It was very repetitive. As you get a little older, you get accustomed to the repetition, and you know the technicalities of what you are doing in your specific sport. It is not so much about the quantity, but the quality of your work. I started to pivot, and that’s where the world of strength came into my sports journey, especially because I had a shoulder injury from a very early age. I had to work on my shoulder strength and, ultimately, strength for my entire body.

Over the years, I had gotten to know a lot of brands in the health and wellness space. I was often trying out different watches, heart-rate monitors, and fitness equipment. I had a sense of how to apply these different gadgets, and it was nice to be able to understand what worked and what didn’t work. Tonal works—it does what it is supposed to do. Aly and I felt that when it comes to the female audience and strength, there’s an intimidating perspective of it being too strong and too bulky. For me, it’s the opposite. Strength can set you up for everything you want to do in fitness. It maintains your muscle strength, bone structure, and gives you more energy, so you can burn more when you are doing cardio or other exercises. I had to learn all of this the hard way, as I came from a repetitive sport.

Every call I have with the Tonal team we are always trying to find ways to make the products better, always listening to the customers that are using it. The world of fitness is so personal and individual. That’s what Tonal is catered to do. It does this through the technology that’s made for you, not just made for all your friends. I think that’s what is so impressive. And that’s what I learned in my career—not everyone is the same. And not everyone needs to use the same weights and reps.

When I was younger and became a sponsored athlete or associated with brands, in the immediate future I thought about it as a financial blanket. But ultimately, what I learned, especially from brands like Evian and Nike, it was almost like an MBA. Not only do you learn about the products, but also about the teams, the marketing, and the product innovation. I was always scared to only be known as a tennis player and an athlete. I wanted to jump into the world of entrepreneurship. Because that way, I was using my mind, and numbers and mathematics. And by having these great brand partners, I have found I can apply those lessons to this new chapter of my career.

Maria Sharapova Says She's 'Very Proud' of How She 'Carried' Herself Throughout Tennis Career

(9/10/21) ( Maria Sharapova left professional tennis with a lot of love for the sport still in her heart, and she's grateful for that.

The 34-year-old announced her plans to retire in February 2020, just after the Australian Open and ahead of the start of now nearly two years of disruption to the sports world due to the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout her career, she won five Grand Slam women's singles tournaments.

"I left the sport being in a very good place about my decision," she tells PEOPLE now while chatting about her years-long partnership with Evian. "So I haven't thought about that too much, but I still very much love watching the sport and following players."

Reflecting now, Sharapova can't ignore the strength and perseverance it took her to navigate formidable opponents and years in the spotlight.

"Overall, I was very proud of the way that I carried myself through my career, of how I handled many moments in my career, whether they were tough moments, whether they were some of the best moments of my life," Sharapova says with confidence. "I think my philosophy was to try to be as level-headed and not get too down or overly celebratory because life changes so quickly."

It's something the world has obviously seen in the past two years through the pandemic: "Things just change and you have to be able to take it with as much ease as you can, even though that's so much easier to say than to do."

For 28 years, Sharapova says she gave everything "physically and mentally" to the sport, making for an amazing journey. The day-to-day slowdown of life the pandemic has brought on some of this reflection she admits, giving the now-businesswoman time to "appreciate."

"But it's also left me really excited about the future," she says, adding, "it's a mix of this proud, but also excited for what's to come."

What's to come also includes wedding bells: Sharapova confirmed her engagement to British businessman and co-founder of online auction house Paddle 8, Alexander Gilkes, in December of last year.

Sharapova says she's not quite sure when she'll be walking down the aisle, as the couple is cognizant of what's going on in the world. "I think with today's environment, there's so many uncertainties, we haven't set a date," she explains. "We actually haven't discussed it yet because we want our friends and family to be comfortable in an environment and not feel like they have to attend something."

In the interim, Sharapova is focused on her many business ventures and her work with Evian. It's easy, she says, to speak about hydration and water — crucial aspects of her lifestyle as an athlete.

She's enjoyed "being supportive of Evian's presence at the US Open, seeing them grow so much over the years and obviously seeing tons of water being provided for the players in the locker room, every single corner of the locker room, making sure that they're staying hydrated as they play through the tournament in the heat."

Tennis Star Maria Sharapova Is Engaged to Alexander Gilkes

(12/17/20) There's a whole new meaning of love on the court for tennis star Maria Sharapova, who is engaged to art dealer Alexander Gilkes.

Maria announced the news on her Instagram Dec. 17, with a black and white selfie of her and Alexander.

"I said yes from the first day we met," Maria wrote in the caption. "This was our little secret, wasn't it."

Alexander also shared the news on Instagram, writing, "Thank you for making me a very very happy boy. I look forward to a lifetime of loving you, and learning from you."

Robyn Gilkes, Alexander's mother, was thrilled by the big news, commenting on Maria's Instagram post, "Sooo exciting and lots of welcomes to our very strange family!!! Can't wait to be able to properly celebrate this brilliant news with instead of from so far away."

Maria, who announced her retirement from tennis earlier this year, began dating Alexander—a British businessman who is the co-founder of Squared Circles—in 2018, following his divorce from fashion designer Misha Nonoo.

Alexander occasionally updates fans about his life with his now fiancée on Instagram. In February, the 41-year-old praised Maria for her essay in Vanity Fair, in which she shared her decision to leave professional tennis behind.

"To the kindest and most professional person I know, here is to you Maria, and all that awaits you in your next chapter! May you continue to inspire us all with your deep humility, self-deprecation, strength and focus," Alexander wrote. "As a remarkable first chapter closes with so many extraordinary feats, we look forward to all that you will accomplish with equal grit and grace in the years to come."

Now, Maria and Alexander will start their next chapter together as a married couple.

This Startup's Product: Remote Coaching From Maria Sharapova, Michael Phelps, and Other Olympians

(9/2/20) ( In the midst of increased remote work, a new company is showing what the future of coaching might look like.

The startup, called The Skills, launched on Tuesday with a website that lets users watch instructional videos on skills ranging from spiking a volleyball to perfecting the breaststroke. The tutorials are given by some of the world's top athletes, including 23-time Olympic gold-medal swimmer Michael Phelps, career Grand Slam tennis champion Maria Sharapova, snowboarder Shaun White, beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings, and NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, among others.

Founder and CEO Omer Atesmen says the idea for The Skills was inspired by MasterClass, the company that offers online courses taught by experts in subjects like photography and acting. Atesmen thought there would be an audience for a similar product focused exclusively on sports.

"We were able to pretty quickly get a lot of the athletes to come on board, despite the fact that no one knows who I am," Atesmen says. "So I think that speaks to the idea."

Atesmen previously founded solar company Clean Energy Experts, which claimed the No. 79 spot on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America in 2014 and the No. 337 spot in 2015. He sold the company to Sunrun, the largest residential solar firm in the U.S., for more than $50 million in 2015.

Atesmen used some of those funds to start building The Skills last year. He got help from his friend and former co-worker John Harper, now the COO of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, to sign up elite athletes. The Skills raised a $2 million seed round last fall that included investment firms Global Founders Capital and Maveron.

The product is increasingly relevant in the age of social distancing, even if Atesmen didn't plan it that way. "People are becoming more accepting of being able to educate themselves in a remote environment," he says. "I think it's a trend that's going to become stronger and stronger."

The courses cover technical skills as well as topics that transcend the court or field. In one video, Sharapova talks about the proper grip and technique for a forehand; in another, she talks about developing the ability to maintain focus amid distractions.

"This was something that hadn't been done specifically in the sports world," Sharapova says, adding that she tried to share some of the knowledge she gained from her father and her coaches throughout her career. "I hope anyone watching can learn lessons that could be valuable not just in sports, but in their careers and their lives."

A crew recently filmed Sharapova over the course of two days in Los Angeles. The tennis great says it was a new kind of experience for her. "When you're an athlete, so many of these things become second nature," she says. "So I really had to get into my own mind to become a teacher."

Sharapova and Fitzgerald both have taken advisory roles and own equity in the company. Atesmen set aside equity for some of the first athletes to come on board. "That's a really big thing for athletes nowadays--to have equity and feel like they're involved with the company, not just transactionally, but are invested beyond that," Atesmen says.

The Skills has seven full-time employees, all of whom work remotely, with plans to grow to 15 or 20 by the end of the year. The startup hires an L.A.-based production crew for each shoot, which can take place locally or on location--like for White's, which took place on a snowy mountain in Colorado.

In addition to several-part courses from star athletes, the platform will also offer one-off videos from others who aren't quite household names, like X Games medalist skateboarder Dashawn Jordan and Paralympic track and field athlete Scout Bassett. Its yearly price ranges from $69 for a single athlete's full courseload to $149 for everything on the site. The company plans on releasing new videos weekly to keep customers engaged.

Atesmen says The Skills' target demographic is youth through college-age athletes, but he hopes it will appeal to all age groups. "We've already seen the sort of weekend warrior casual athlete purchasing it in our beta testing," he says. "The vision is to be able to have a platform that engages sports fans in general: If you like watching that documentary on Netflix about Lance Armstrong and his career cycling, you're probably going to like watching Michael Phelps teaching."

Maria Sharapova interview: 'I realised tennis was a business at 11'

(8/27/20) Maria Sharapova recalls the moment she knew she was worth investing in. She was still a child, boarding at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Four years earlier she had left Russia for the US with her father Yuri Sharapov in a gamble to become tennis’s next superstar. Money was so tight it would be two years before there was enough for an air ticket for her mother, Yelena, to join them at the academy famous for producing tennis icons Andre Agassi and Monica Seles.

One night, in her dorm room, Sharapova heard a knock at the door. It was her coach, summoning her to the practice courts. Sharapova was about to find out she had been hand-picked as the academy’s next success story.

Speaking from her home in Los Angeles, her first interview with a British newspaper since retiring in February, she describes a moment that would shape the next two decades of her career.

She tells the story animatedly, the memory still fresh in her mind. “A coach knocked on the door and said, ‘Would you be able to go to Centre Court and play some tennis?’ ” recalls the 33-year-old. “Playing tennis at 7pm at the academy was off limits, like no one was allowed on the courts any more. But I walked over and there were all these men in suits lined up – I was 11 or 12, and [it was] the first time I felt that this was a business.”

Stood under the court floodlights, pinging her now-signature hard, flat, groundstrokes, the precocious Sharapova had her first taste of how business powers professional sport. And it felt good. “At that time, I had no idea what an investor was but I remember leaving thinking, ‘Wow, I was called up,’” Sharapova says, the pride still evident in her voice. “I mean, for me it was like a night match at the US Open – I left thinking, ‘Oh, I like this feeling of being called into Centre Court, to be the one that potentially someone wants to invest in’. I liked the pressure.”

Six years later and Sharapova was on top of the world. Beating Serena Williams to win Wimbledon aged just 17 in one of the most memorable finals. She would go on to win four more majors and 36 singles titles.

She also became the most marketable woman in sport. Forbes estimate she spent a phenomenal 11 consecutive years as the highest-earning sportswoman on the planet, with career earnings of $325 million. While she graced the covers of fashion magazines, behind the scenes she worked at growing a business empire.

Famously, Harvard Business School used her career as a case study on how to “market a champion”.

Achievements aside, most media narratives liked to focus on whether she was likeable. Her former coach, Bollettieri said: “She’s very selfish, she wants to help herself. And that’s what it takes to be a great warrior or business person. She’s not mean to other people … but it is Maria Sharapova.” She was just 14. Her formidable on-court demeanour fed that characterisation and she made no secret of the fact she had no interest in making friends. She was frequently described as “steely” or “unapproachable”.

Speaking to Telegraph Women’s Sport she does not come across that way. She is warm, personable even. Did she think the scrutiny was unfair?

“Well, I never thought of it as creating a ‘Maria Sharapova brand’ – I was always doing things that I really loved,” she says of her business interests. “The bottom line is people determine who you are and what you are by the things that they read and see. When I woke up every morning, my priority was to become a champion at my sport.”

Does she think she dealt with more scrutiny than male athletes who built similarly successful brands off the court? She shrugs off the idea, but Nike’s retirement advert for her spoke volumes about the stereotypes she contended with: “They wanted you to smile more … But instead of becoming the player the game wanted you became the player the game needed.”

The greatest recognition of that last point could only come from equal rights pioneer and tennis icon, Billie Jean King, who said of her: “She really helped the sport a lot because she brought a lot of attention to it – not only was she a great player, she did very well off the court.

Sharapova was never the outspoken activist fighting for equal pay. But the fact that nine of the top 10 highest-paid female athletes this year were tennis players, that Naomi Osaka made a record-breaking $34 million in endorsements in 12 months, is without doubt a key part of her legacy, as well as that of long-time rival Williams.. Sharapova’s business trajectory was consciously driven by her, using downtime during her career to capitalise on her time at the top.

“I sensed that tennis wasn’t going to be forever,” she says now.

Her candy business, Sugarpova, was founded while she was injured. She also learnt French, did her high-school diploma and explored her interests in architecture – most recently taking a hands-on approach in designing her own home. During the now infamous 15-month ban she served for what the World Anti-Doping Agency ruled as “unintentional” doping, she kept working, attending Harvard Business School and interning at an ad agency, Nike and the NBA.

The scandal that created global headlines did not prove to be catastrophic in business terms, costing just one of her endorsement deals in the aftermath. But the response from her fellow professionals was less forgiving; former top seed Eugenie Bouchard said she should not be allowed to return at all. Did she ever consider quitting then?

“When you win a Grand Slam, when you become No 1 in the world, it’s a phenomenal feeling – and you don’t have anything to prove,” she says, firmly batting away the question. “Giving up is not part of my character, I’ve overcome so many challenges throughout my career – the road from Siberia to Centre Court is a long one. I wanted to perform for myself.”

Her comeback brought her little joy on the court though, and her shoulder pain was unbearable. In a show of her ability to transcend sport, she made her retirement announcement a month later by penning an open letter in the pages of fashion magazines Vogue and Vanity Fair, after confiding in American Vogue editor Anna Wintour about her plans to draw a line under her career. “Dosvidanya,” she wrote, a nod to her Russian roots.

What followed was a relatively seamless transition to post-tennis life that not many in sport enjoy. She laughs recalling the day after she went public with the news, as she forewent downtime and instead was straight into business meetings. The slower pace of lockdown life in the ensuing months has been a blessing after 28 years of tennis, spending time with her parents and partner, British businessman Alexander Gilkes.

Her business instinct, though, has not slowed. Most recently, she invested in Therabody, a health and wellness brand with a range of sports recovery massage machines, and plans to have a hands-on role in the company. It is a match that makes sense, considering her last years on the Tour were spent trying to coerce her shoulder, an injury that dogged her for more than a decade, to let her play through chronic pain.

Now, as the first major since her retirement kicks off at the US Open next week, she will be looking on at her first grand slam as a fan. Sharapova names 16-year-old Coco Gauff as the athlete to emulate her own success and become a teen champion. Gauff’s activism for the Black Lives Matter movement also impresses her.

“I remember when I was 13 years old, Billie Jean King came up to me for the very first time,” she recalls. “She said, ‘Whatever you do does not just shape your path, but it shapes the path of the generation to come’. At the time, [it] didn’t resonate. But I think Coco’s doing an incredible job of that – she’s using her platform to make a difference. I admire her a lot.”

It is an observation that feels surprising, considering social consciousness never seemed like a priority in her own career.

And yet, when we look back we see how Sharapova helped shape the script on the potential of a sportswoman to excel both on and off the court. In doing so, she empowered a whole generation of female sportswomen to know their worth too. Her new life, easing into a retirement centred around her entrepreneurship, is testament to that, and to the girl that clobbered backhands down the line under the Centre Court floodlights in Bradenton all those years ago.

Fritz, Rae win glitchy Mario Tennis charity tournament

(5/3/30) American tennis player Taylor Fritz and his doubles partner, Tik Tok personality Addison Rae, won the virtual Stay At Home Slam on Sunday as real-life tennis remains on hold because of the coronavirus crisis.

The likes of the Williams sisters, Japanese stars Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori and the recently retired Maria Sharapova competed as their favourite characters from the world of Nintendo to raise money for charity.

The professional tennis tours are closed down until mid-July at the earliest because of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning fans and players alike were eager to turn their attention to the tournament played within the Mario Tennis Aces game.

The final, which pitched Fritz and Rae against Nishikori and his partner, DJ Steve Aoki, was watched live by over 35,000 people on Facebook Gaming but did run into technical difficulties as the match froze midway through the set.

After a delay, which was filled by awkward banter between co-commentators seven-time Grand Slam winner John McEnroe and YouTube personality iJustine, the match restarted.

Mirroring his real-life playing style, Fritz's dominant serve was the deciding factor as he and Rae ran out 6-4 winners to claim the championship and a $1 million donation to the No Kids Hungry charity.

All the players received a $25,000 donation to their charity of choice.

"I was more nervous there than any of my real tennis matches," Fritz said.

The Williams sisters couldn't translate their real-life prowess into the virtual world as both lost their opening round matches.

Sharapova and partner, model Karlie Kloss, also went out in the first round whilst Osaka's match against Nishikori and Aoki had to be forfeited after her partner Hailey Bieber struggled to maintain a strong internet connection.

Despite the technical issues - brushed off by McEnroe as being "like a rain delay" - tennis fans will have be content with virtual tournaments for now.

Last week, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray headlined the Virtual Madrid Open, which was also plagued by some technical snafus [L5N2CF6M8].

"It has been a crazy time but we all need to have some fun and it is for a great cause," said McEnroe.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has infected over 3.4 million globally, killing at least 240,000 people, has also played havoc with the world's sporting calendar.

The Wimbledon championships were cancelled for the first time since World War Two whilst the French Open, originally scheduled to begin in May, has been pushed back until September.

All ATP and WTA tour tournaments have been cancelled until at least mid-July.

IMG’s Live Virtual Tennis Tournament To Feature Serena and Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova Facing Off Online

(4/29/30) Care to see Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori and Maria Sharapova play tennis this week?

IMG announced Wednesday that eight of its top tennis clients will face off via the Mario Tennis Aces game exclusively for Nintendo Switch. They will be joined in doubles matches by celebrities such as Gigi Hadid, Seal, Ryan Tannehill, Haley Bieber and Karlie Kloss.

The live virtual tennis tournament is called the “Stay at Home Slam.” Competition is set to take place on Sunday, May 3 at 4:00 p.m. ET/ 1:00 pm PT. It will be streamed exclusively on Facebook via Facebook Gaming and IMG’s tennis Facebook page.

Competitors will take the virtual courts from their homes across the country. Each will receive $25,000 donated to the charity of their choice, with the winner of the tournament receiving an additional $1 million donation.

“I am proud our IMG tennis clients came together so quickly to support a multitude of great causes,” said Max Eisenbud, SVP of tennis clients at IMG. “It is a testament to the people we work with across all our divisions that we were able to bring this to life in such a short amount of time.”

“It’s been incredible to see the creative ways athletes are using social media to support people during this difficult time,” said Evan Shugerman, Facebook Athlete Partnerships Lead. “We’re excited to be partnering with IMG to contribute to those efforts, which will bring some of the world’s top athletes together on Facebook for an entertaining and impactful competition.”

Tennis stars participating, and their corresponding celebrity doubles partners are:

Serena Williams and Gigi Hadid

Naomi Osaka and Hailey Bieber

Venus Williams and JuJu Smith-Schuster

Maria Sharapova and Karlie Kloss

Kei Nishikori and Steve Aoki

Madison Keys and Seal

Taylor Fritz and Addison Rae

Kevin Anderson and Ryan Tannehill

John McEnroe and YouTube personality iJustine (Justine Ezarik) will offer commentary.

This first-ever tournament is made possible by various divisions across Endeavor, including IMG’s tennis clients, events and esports teams, WME’s talent clients and digital groups, as well as Endeavor Content’s Film 45, which will produce the tournament livestream.

“Across the Endeavor network, we are pivoting in creative ways during this time of crisis,” said Stuart Saw, SVP of esports at IMG. “We’re thrilled to have the internal resources to bring a bit of levity to viewers’ lives, and who better than Mario to bring people together for some friendly, competitive fun? We’re also grateful to have the support of Facebook Gaming to help us bring this event to fans around the world.”

“Gaming’s superpower has always been bringing people together and right now that’s the case more than ever,” said Leo Olebe, Global Director, Games Partnerships for Facebook Gaming. “Blending that superpower with pro athletes and epic entertainment to raise money for COVID-19 relief and research efforts is a natural fit that we’re proud to be a part of.”

In Mario Tennis Aces for Nintendo Switch, Mario steps onto the court for all-out tennis battles against a variety of Mushroom Kingdom characters including Luigi, Peach, Donkey Kong and Bowser.

Maria Sharapova could have won 10 majors without shoulder injury

(3/6/20) Maria Sharapova could have won at least 10 grand slam titles if she had not suffered a shoulder injury that took away "one of her biggest weapons", Michael Joyce believes.

Sharapova retired last week aged 32, revealing her body had become a "distraction" after being troubled by injury problems for much of her career.

The former world number one was out for nine months following a first operation in 2008 and coach Joyce had to work on remodelling the Russian's powerful serve in order to prolong her career.

Sharapova won the French Open twice following her return to take her major haul to five and complete a career Grand Slam, but could not add to that tally after a 2014 triumph at Roland Garros.

Joyce, who coached the global icon from 2004 to 2011, says it was a huge achievement just to come back from the surgery early in her career and is sure there would have been more major glory if she had not been so unfortunate with injuries.

He told Stats Perform: "What a lot of people don't realise is her coming back from that shoulder surgery was a win itself.

"We tried to do everything to not have surgery, but it got to a point where nothing we did was helping her.

"When the doctors went in I was there with her and the doctor came after about 30 minutes and said, 'Listen, I couldn't really do much, she had a tear in her rotator cuff, the way her shoulder is built I could have tightened it up, but then she could maybe not ever serve again'.

"He said he just cleaned it out, but told me I am the coach and have to figure out when she comes back if there is something mechanically she is doing or whatever.

"We'd had about a year of changing her service motion and trying different things, she went through a period where she was double-faulting, so people were questioning what we were doing and why she couldn't get the serve in.

"She had a great serve, but at the time her shoulder wasn't strong enough to do her normal long motion. She got back to the top 10 basically without one of her biggest weapons.

"The rest of her career I think she managed it, she could still serve big but I don't personally think it was anything like before she had the injury. I think if she hadn't hurt her shoulder she could probably have won double-digit grand slams.

"For her to come back and win the French Open a couple of times, because clay was her worst surface when she was younger, was because the serve is not as important on clay.

"For somebody to transform their game in a way to win more grand slams on their worst surface is incredible, it shows her resilience and determination."

Team Bryan Brothers win WTT Celebrity All-Star Match

(3/1/20) Team Bryan Brothers beat Team Sharapova 22-13 on Sunday in the World TeamTennis Celebrity All-Star Match at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.

The match featured Bob and Mike Bryan, Sam Querrey and Rio Olympics champion Monica Puig from the Vegas Rollers, Ryan Harrison and Coco Vandeweghe of the San Diego Aviators, Madison Keys of the Orlando Storm, Taylor Townsend of the Philadelphia Freedoms and player/coach Mardy Fish of the New York Empire.

The Bryan brothers, tennis’ winningest doubles team in the midst of their final year together on the ATP Tour, capped off the match with a 5-2 victory over Harrison and Fish and were named the match’s co-MVPs.

“It’s a good way to showcase WTT,” Mike Bryan said. “Sellout crowd. Energy was off the charts. Every one of the players is in a great mood.”

Townsend helped Team Bryan Brothers to a 15-6 lead after the first three sets. She teamed with Keys to beat Vandeweghe and Puig 5-0 in the opening set, women’s singles, partnered with Mike Bryan to down Vandeweghe and Harrison, 5-3, in mixed doubles, and subbed in for Keys to finish off a 5-3 victory in women’s singles.

Two-time WTT champion and five-time Grand Slam champ Maria Sharapova coached her team in her first appearance at a tennis event since her retirement from the WTA Tour was announced Wednesday. Sharapova is scheduled to play two matches during the World TeamTennis season with the Orange County Breakers on July 28-29.

“I’ve been part of World TeamTennis ever since I was a little girl. It was really the event that gave me the experience that I needed at that age,” said Sharapova, who won WTT titles with the Breakers in 2004 and 2017. “I’ve played World TeamTennis on this court, so good memories to be back here. Every athlete, you have to say I’m finished at one point and it came for me this week.”

The WTT Celebrity All-Star Match kicked off WTT’s 45th season at the home of WTT’s San Diego Aviators.

Maria Sharapova’s boyfriend posts touching message after her tennis retirement

(2/26/20) Maria Sharapova and boyfriend Alexander Gilkes are looking forward to the next chapter.

Gilkes — the co-founder of online auction house Padddle8 — on Wednesday posted a sweet message to his lady love on Instagram after Sharapova announced the end of her tennis career.

“To the kindest and most professional person I know, here is to you Maria, and all that awaits you in your next chapter! May you continue to inspire us all with your deep humility, self-deprecation, strength and focus. As a remarkable first chapter closes with so many extraordinary fetes, we look forward to all that you will accomplish with equal grit in the years to come. Proudly and lovingly,” Gilkes captioned a shot of Sharapova on the court.

Earlier in the day, Sharapova, 32, addressed her retirement in a personal essay for Vanity Fair.

“I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis — I’m saying goodbye,” she wrote.

Sharapova leaves behind a legacy consisting of five Grand Slam titles and a 2017 comeback that followed a 15-month doping ban.

Despite professional struggles, a constant in Sharapova’s life over the past few years has been her relationship with Gilkes. In October 2018, the pair went public with their romance via social media.

Sharapova was previously linked to former NBA player Sasha Vujacic and fellow tennis star Grigor Dimitrov, whom she briefly and awkwardly reunited with last month during an Australian tournament. As for Gilkes, his fashion designer ex, Misha Nonoo, is rumored to have played royal matchmaker to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

“Tennis—I’m Saying Goodbye.” After 28 Years and Five Grand Slams, Maria Sharapova Steps Away From The Game

(2/26/20) ( By Maria Sharapova

How do you leave behind the only life you’ve ever known? How do you walk away from the courts you’ve trained on since you were a little girl, the game that you love—one which brought you untold tears and unspeakable joys—a sport where you found a family, along with fans who rallied behind you for more than 28 years?

I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis—I’m saying goodbye.

Before we get to the end, though, let me start at the beginning. The first time I remember seeing a tennis court, my father was playing on it. I was four years old in Sochi, Russia—so small that my tiny legs were dangling off the bench I was sitting on. So small that the racket I picked up next to me was twice my size.

When I was six, I traveled across the globe to Florida with my father. The whole world seemed gigantic back then. The airplane, the airport, the wide expanse of America: Everything was enormous—as was my parents’ sacrifice.

When I first started playing, the girls on the other side of the net were always older, taller, and stronger; the tennis greats I watched on TV seemed untouchable and out of reach. But little by little, with every day of practice on the court, this almost mythical world became more and more real.

The first courts I ever played on were uneven concrete with faded lines. Over time, they became muddy clay and the most gorgeous, manicured grass your feet could ever step upon. But never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever win on the sport’s biggest stages—and on every surface.

Wimbledon seemed like a good place to start. I was a naive 17-year-old, still collecting stamps, and didn’t understand the magnitude of my victory until I was older—and I’m glad I didn’t.

My edge, though, was never about feeling superior to other players. It was about feeling like I was on the verge of falling off a cliff—which is why I constantly returned to the court to figure out how to keep climbing.

The U.S. Open showed me how to overcome distractions and expectations. If you couldn’t handle the commotion of New York—well, the airport was almost next-door. Dosvidanya.

The Australian Open took me to a place that had never been a part of me before—to an extreme confidence that some people call being “in the zone.” I really can’t explain it—but it was a good place to be.

The clay at the French Open exposed virtually all my weaknesses—for starters, my inability to slide on it—and forced me to overcome them. Twice. That felt good.

These courts revealed my true essence. Behind the photo shoots and the pretty tennis dresses, they exposed my imperfections—every wrinkle, every drop of sweat. They tested my character, my will, my ability to channel my raw emotions into a place where they worked for me instead of against me. Between their lines, my vulnerabilities felt safe. How lucky am I to have found a kind of ground on which I felt so exposed and yet so comfortable?

One of the keys to my success was that I never looked back and I never looked forward. I believed that if I kept grinding and grinding, I could push myself to an incredible place. But there is no mastering tennis—you must simply keep heeding the demands of the court while trying to quiet those incessant thoughts in the back of your mind:

Did you do enough—and more—to prepare for your next opponent?

You’ve taken a few days off—your body’s losing that edge.

That extra slice of pizza? Better make up for it with a great morning session.

Listening to this voice so intimately, anticipating its every ebb and flow, is also how I accepted those final signals when they came.

One of them came last August at the U.S. Open. Behind closed doors, thirty minutes before taking the court, I had a procedure to numb my shoulder to get through the match. Shoulder injuries are nothing new for me—over time my tendons have frayed like a string. I’ve had multiple surgeries—once in 2008; another procedure last year—and spent countless months in physical therapy. Just stepping onto the court that day felt like a final victory, when of course it should have been merely the first step toward victory. I share this not to garner pity, but to paint my new reality: My body had become a distraction.

Throughout my career, Is it worth it? was never even a question—in the end, it always was. My mental fortitude has always been my strongest weapon. Even if my opponent was physically stronger, more confident—even just plain better—I could, and did, persevere.

I’ve never really felt compelled to speak about work, or effort, or grit—every athlete understands the unspoken sacrifices they must make to succeed. But as I embark on my next chapter, I want anyone who dreams of excelling in anything to know that doubt and judgment are inevitable: You will fail hundreds of times, and the world will watch you. Accept it. Trust yourself. I promise that you will prevail.

In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life. I’ll miss it everyday. I’ll miss the training and my daily routine: Waking up at dawn, lacing my left shoe before my right, and closing the court’s gate before I hit my first ball of the day. I’ll miss my team, my coaches. I’ll miss the moments sitting with my father on the practice court bench. The handshakes—win or lose—and the athletes, whether they knew it or not, who pushed me to be my best.

Looking back now, I realize that tennis has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible. After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, though, I’m ready to scale another mountain—to compete on a different type of terrain.

That relentless chase for victories, though? That won’t ever diminish. No matter what lies ahead, I will apply the same focus, the same work ethic, and all of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

In the meantime, there are a few simple things I’m really looking forward to: A sense of stillness with my family. Lingering over a morning cup of coffee. Unexpected weekend getaways. Workouts of my choice (hello, dance class!).

Tennis showed me the world—and it showed me what I was made of. It’s how I tested myself and how I measured my growth. And so in whatever I might choose for my next chapter, my next mountain, I’ll still be pushing. I’ll still be climbing. I’ll still be growing.

Sharapova ends a career that was stuff of Hollywood

(2/26/20) From the shadow of Chernobyl's nuclear wasteland to international super-stardom and from penniless arrival in the United States, without a word of English, to estimated earnings of at least $300 million.

For a long time Maria Sharapova's story was the stuff of Hollywood dreams, a testament to the power of one individual to make it, whatever the odds, whatever people think.

A drugs ban in 2016 and persistent injuries cast a shadow over her career and on Wednesday, with an announcement in Vogue magazine, the 32-year-old brought her eventful career to an end.

"How do you leave behind the only life you've ever known? How do you walk away from the courts you've trained on since you were a little girl, the game that you love," she wrote.

"Tennis — I'm saying goodbye."

Sharapova shot to international fame as a giggly 17-year-old Wimbledon winner in 2004 -- the third youngest player to conquer the All England Club's famous grass courts.

She would go on to win the Australian and US Opens while claiming two titles at the French Open, despite famously likening her movement on Roland Garros's crushed red brick to a "cow on ice".

Siberia-born Sharapova first picked up a racquet at the age of four in Sochi, where her Belarus-born parents had settled after escaping the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

- Overnight celebrity -

Spotted by Martina Navratilova, she was encouraged to move to Nick Bollettieri's Florida academy, the proving ground of Andre Agassi and Monica Seles.

Father Yuri and the seven-year-old Maria left for the US in 1994 with just $700 to their names.

Yuri took odd jobs like dishwashing to finance his daughter's dreams although visa restrictions meant mother Yelena was back in Russia, separated from her daughter for two years.

Sharapova made her professional debut at 14 in 2001 and by 2003 reached the world top 50. She won her first tour titles in Japan and Quebec.

Then in 2004, her Wimbledon final triumph in straight sets over Serena Williams made her an overnight international celebrity.

One year later, she became the first Russian woman to be ranked number one in the world while, in 2006, she won her second major at the US Open.

But in 2007 and 2008, she began her long, on-off battle with shoulder trouble.

She still had time to win the 2008 Australian Open before a second shoulder injury. But in 2012 she captured the French Open to become the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam. She added Olympic silver to her resume that year.

Her 2014 French Open title was another high after a dispiriting injury low.

More injury troubles followed before the bombshell announcement of her positive test for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open -- where she fell in the quarter-finals to Williams, her last match before a 15-month suspension.

With Williams, she endured her most testing rivalry -- on and off the court.

The two famously exchanged personal insults over their love lives when Sharapova began a two-year romance with Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov, a rumoured previous suitor of the American.

Sharapova had previously been engaged to former Los Angeles Laker Sasha Vujacic.

- Commercial Jackpot -

She may have been unlucky in love, but Sharapova hit the jackpot in her commercial affairs.

She once signed a contract extension with Nike worth a reported $70 million and Forbes calculated in 2016 that she had made more than $300 million over her career from playing and endorsements.

"Beauty sells. I have to realise that's a part of why people want me. I'm not going to make myself ugly," she said.

She owns luxury homes and made a lucrative career as an entrepreneur.

In 2012, she launched her own line of candy, 'Sugarpova', and during her suspension, signed up for a Harvard Business School course.

For 11 years before her doping ban, Sharapova was the highest-paid female athlete in the world, said Forbes. When she was suspended Tag Heuer cut off talks over a new deal and Porsche and Nike suspended promotional plans, though they did not sever their links.

When Sharapova returned in 2017 her world ranking had disappeared, leaving her at the mercy of wildcards into tournaments.

Those free-passes irked many of her contemporaries already suspicious of the Russian's aloofness.

Troubled by her shoulder, she struggled to recapture her best form.

When she lost in straight sets to Donna Vekic in the first round of the Australian Open in January, the writing seemed on the wall.

"You realise that you're not immortal, you're never going to play this forever," Sharapova said. "At one point, life goes on and there's a lot of things to look forward to."

"You have family, children, other business ventures. To me, that doesn't make me sad, that makes me excited."

In her farewell note in Vogue, she wrote: "In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life. I'll miss it every day."

Sharapova's time in tennis: teen titles, career Slam, ban

(2/26/20) Maria Sharapova, who retired Wednesday at age 32, was a star on and off the tennis court, reaching No. 1 in the rankings, winning five Grand Slam titles and making millions of dollars in endorsement deals.

Here is a look at some key moments:


Born on April 19 in Nyagan, Russia. Started playing tennis at 4. When she was 6, participated in a tennis exhibition in Moscow, where she was noticed by 18-time major champion Martina Navratilova.


Began training at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida at 9.


Won her first WTA title at the Japan Open. Made her Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open, losing in the first round. She also lost in the first round of the French Open, before earning her first match win at a major at Wimbledon, where she reached the fourth round.


Upset two-time defending champion Serena Williams 6-1, 6-4 in the Wimbledon final to win her first Grand Slam title at 17. Sharapova became the third-youngest winner at a tournament that began in the 1870s. Later that year, Sharapova beat Williams again to win the season-ending WTA championship. They would go on to meet each other 19 other times; Williams won all 19 of those matches.


In August, rose to No. 1 in the WTA rankings, the first Russian to hold that spot. She would go on to spend a total of 21 weeks atop the rankings.


Won the U.S. Open for her second major title, beating Justine Henin 6-4, 6-4 in the final.


Won the Australian Open for the third Grand Slam trophy of her career, defeating Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 6-3 in the final. Missed that year's U.S. Open because she needed surgery on her right shoulder, a recurring problem for the rest of her playing days.


Won the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam, overwhelming Sara Errani 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Not bad for someone who once joked that her movement on the red clay used at Roland Garros made her look like ''a cow on ice.'' Sharapova became the 10th woman in the sport's history with at least one title at each of the four most prestigious tournaments in tennis; she is one of six women to do it in the professional era. Later that season, won a silver medal at the London Olympics, losing to Williams in the final.


Won the French Open again, edging Simona Halep 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4 in the final; it would be Sharapova's last Grand Slam title. She also became the first tennis player to pass 15 million followers on Facebook. She currently has more than 8 million followers on Twitter and nearly 4 million on Instagram.


Runner-up to Williams at the Australian Open; it would be Sharapova's 10th and last appearance in a major final.


After she lost to Williams again at the Australian Open, this time in the quarterfinals, word emerged that Sharapova was being suspended for failing a doping test for meldonium, which had recently been banned. She appealed her original penalty of two years and wound up serving a 15-month suspension.


Returned to the tour in April and, with her ranking too low to enter tournaments automatically, was denied a wild-card invitation for the French Open. Eventually returned to Grand Slam action at the U.S. Open, where she lost in the fourth round. In October, claimed her first title in two years by winning the Tianjin Open. It was the 36th singles title of her career - and the last.


Loses her only two matches of the season, including in the first round of the Australian Open, 6-3, 6-4 against Donna Vekic. It is her fourth consecutive Grand Slam loss, the longest such streak of Sharapova's career.

Sharapova 'legend with mind of champion,' says Djokovic

(2/26/20) Novak Djokovic hailed Maria Sharapova as a "legend" with "the mind of a champion" after the Russian superstar announced her retirement from tennis at the age of 32 on Wednesday.

Five-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one Sharapova called time on her career after losing a long-term battle with shoulder trouble having amassed a total of 36 WTA titles, spending 21 weeks on top of the rankings and with a personal fortune estimated at $300 million.

"Her impact on the sport, not just women's tennis, but tennis in general, was great. It still is great," said world number one Djokovic in Dubai where he made the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

"She's a very smart girl, someone that I know very well for a long time. She has the mind of a champion, someone that never gives up. She's shown that especially in the last five years.

"She had a lot of obstacles and difficulties, especially with her injuries and everything that she had to endure in order to give herself at least another chance to play competitive tennis.

"For someone that has won five Grand Slams and has been No. 1 of the world, a legend of the sport. She should be proud of everything she has achieved."

- 'Great champion' -

US legend Billie Jean King said Sharapova had been a "great champion" ever since becoming an overnight sensation as a 17-year-old Wimbledon champion in 2004.

"From the day @MariaSharapova won her first #Wimbledon title at age 17, she has been a great champion. A 5x major champion and a former World No. 1, her business success is just as impressive as her tennis achievements. Maria, the best is yet to come for you! #MissYouMaria," tweeted 12-time major winner King.

Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon winner, who defeated Sharapova in the 2011 final at the All England Club, praised the Russian's "hard work and fight".

"It was a pleasure to share the court with you @MariaSharapova. We always had great battles when we played and I have so much respect for your hard work and the way you always fight for everything," tweeted the Czech.

"You have achieved a lot in your life so far and I know this is just the start."

Men's world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was only five when Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004, said many of the Russian's rivals can only be envious of her success.

"I think many people are jealous of the career that she had," said the Greek, also playing in Dubai this week.

"Obviously she was behind Serena, another great athlete. I would say after Serena she's probably the best after her.

"She had a really good career with great victories, great achievements in tennis. I think she added a lot to our sport."

WTA chief executive Steve Simon added: "She will be greatly missed by her millions of fans around the world, but I know this will also mark an exciting new beginning for Maria as she now focuses on her many business ventures, charitable activities and other outside interests."

Goodbye, tennis: Sharapova announces retirement

(2/26/20) Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova, one of the world's most recognisable and highest-paid sportswomen, on Wednesday announced her retirement at the age of 32, and was immediately hailed as "a legend" and "great champion."

"Tennis — I'm saying goodbye," Sharapova said in an article for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines.

"After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, though, I'm ready to scale another mountain — to compete on a different type of terrain."

Men's number one Novak Djokovic dubbed Sharapova a "legend" of the sport, hailing her "great impact".

"She's a very smart girl. She has the mind of a champion, someone that never gives up," said Djokovic.

Sharapova burst onto the scene as a supremely gifted teenager and won her Grand Slams before serving a 15-month ban for failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open.

The Russian former world number one's ranking is currently 373rd.

Sharapova has hardly played in the past year because of long-standing shoulder problems.

When she did feature she lost as many matches as she won and was dumped out in the first rounds at Wimbledon, the US Open and, most recently, the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Siberia-born Sharapova first picked up a racquet at the age of four in Sochi, where her Belarus-born parents had settled after escaping the deadly clutches of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

She shot to fame as a giggly 17-year-old Wimbledon winner in 2004, the third-youngest player to conquer the All England Club's hallowed grass courts.

- 'Tennis gave me life' -

She became world number one in 2005, at the age of 18, and won the US Open the next year.

"One of the keys to my success was that I never looked back and I never looked forward," Sharapova said on Wednesday.

"I believed that if I kept grinding and grinding, I could push myself to an incredible place."

But in 2007 Sharapova began her long on-off battle with shoulder trouble.

She would win the 2008 Australian Open before a second shoulder injury kept her off tour for the second half of the season, missing the US Open and Beijing Olympics.

In 2012, the Siberian-born Sharapova captured the French Open to become the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam. She added Olympic silver to her resume that year.

Her 2014 French Open title was another high after a dispiriting injury low.

More fitness troubles followed before the bombshell announcement of her positive test for the banned heart drug meldonium.

- Always a fighter -

Always a fighter -- the seven-year-old Maria and father Yuri left for the US in 1994 with just a borrowed $700 to their names -- Sharapova returned to the sport in 2017.

"In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life," Sharapova said in her retirement missive.

"I'll miss it everyday. I'll miss the training and my daily routine: Waking up at dawn, lacing my left shoe before my right, and closing the court's gate before I hit my first ball of the day.

"I'll miss my team, my coaches. I'll miss the moments sitting with my father on the practice court bench. The handshakes — win or lose — and the athletes, whether they knew it or not, who pushed me to be my best.

"Looking back now, I realize that tennis has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible."

Sharapova had been the highest-paid female athlete in the world in the 11 years up to 2016, according to Forbes business magazine.

She netted prize money alone of $38.8 million (35.7m euros) in a career during which she won 36 singles titles. Forbes, in its 2016 article, said the Florida-based Russian had banked nearly $300m from prize money, appearances and endorsements since she turned professional in 2001.

She has also established herself as an entrepreneur, launching her own line of candy, 'Sugarpova', and warned Wednesday her "relentless chase for victories... won't ever diminish".

"No matter what lies ahead, I will apply the same focus, the same work ethic, and all of the lessons I've learned along the way.

"In whatever I might choose for my next chapter, my next mountain, I'll still be pushing. I'll still be climbing. I'll still be growing."

Sharapova's coach Riccardo Piatti tweeted "it's been an honor to have worked with such an amazing athlete and person. I'll miss her on court and outside."

Olympic champion Monica Puig praised Sharapova for helping in relief efforts when Puerto Rico was devastated by a hurricane in 2017.

"Thanks for being such a great friend and a true example of what a champion really is. I wish you nothing but the best. You deserve it," she tweeted.

Shark Tank First Look: Maria Sharapova Fields Pitches for Ping-Pong Parlors, Nether-Region Cream and More

(2/21/20) (Pic1, Pic2, Pic3) The ball — make that the sales pitch — will be in Maria Sharapova‘s court when the tennis pro-turned-entrepreneur sits in on an upcoming Shark Tank, and we’ve got your exclusive first look at the episode.

Sharapova will join the Sharks for the Sunday, Feb. 28 hour (ABC, 9/8c). The photos at the top and bottom of this post show her interacting with regulars Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Grenier and Daymond John as they field presentations from wannabe millionaires hoping the Sharks will fund their fledgling businesses.

Per the official synopsis, the episode’s lineup of prospective products and concepts includes a “stylish weighted design” that adds resistance to workouts, a type of dog food that promises to make pets “excited to eat,” and an event space that centers around “an American family-favorite game” — this likely is related to the ping-pong photo below.

Then there’s the New York City entrepreneurs who “introduce their multipurpose hair and skin-softening product for the nether regions.” (Does that have anything to do with the T-rex photo below? We have no idea.)

Sharapova holds five career Grand Slam titles and oversees Sugarpova, the candy line she founded in 2012.

Sharapova career in balance after Melbourne humiliation

(1/21/20) Maria Sharapova burst onto the scene as a supremely gifted teenager and won five Grand Slams before serving a drugs ban, but at age 32 a persistent injury has now thrown her turbulent career into grave doubt.

The Russian former world number one's ranking is set to dive below 350 after Tuesday's first-round defeat at the Australian Open.

There have been suggestions that Sharapova could soon retire and she did little to dispel that notion following the straight-sets loss to the 19th seed Donna Vekic.

Asked by AFP if she will be back in Melbourne again, she replied: "I don't know, I don't know.

"It's tough for me to tell what's going to happen in 12 months' time."

Sharapova, banned for 15 months for failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open, also said that she did not know what her playing schedule will be in the weeks ahead.

There were moments when Sharapova's downcast press conference took on the air of a farewell.

One journalist asked what the best decision had been in her career.

"I surrounded myself with great people and a great team, and I think it starts with that because you can't always get to where you want to go alone," replied Sharapova.

The Russian once rivalled Serena Williams on court for Grand Slams as well as off it as one of the most marketable women in sport, her net worth estimated by Forbes at $195 million.

But while the 38-year-old Williams is going for a record-equalling 24th Major in Melbourne, Sharapova has hardly played in the past year because of long-standing shoulder problems.

When she did play she lost as many matches as she won and was dumped out in the first rounds at Wimbledon and the US Open -- and now Melbourne.

A former champion in Melbourne, it was her earliest Australian Open exit in a decade.

- 'I don't have a crystal ball' -

Sharapova shot to fame as a giggly 17-year-old Wimbledon winner in 2004, the third-youngest player to conquer the All England Club's hallowed grass courts.

She became world number one in 2005 and won the US Open the next year.

But in 2007 Sharapova began her long on-off battle with shoulder trouble.

She would win the 2008 Australian Open before a second shoulder injury kept her off tour for the second half of the season, missing the US Open and Beijing Olympics.

In 2012, the Siberian-born Sharapova captured the French Open to become the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam. She added Olympic silver to her resume that year.

Her 2014 French Open title was another high after a dispiriting injury low.

More injury troubles followed before the bombshell announcement of her positive test for the banned heart drug meldonium.

Always a fighter -- the seven-year-old Maria and father Yuri left for the US in 1994 with just a borrowed $700 to their names -- Sharapova returned to tennis in 2017.

She won a lower-level WTA title in Tianjin, China six months later. But if she hoped that would herald a return to the top, she was to be mistaken.

Back in Melbourne, where she had to rely on a wildcard to gain entry because of her lowly ranking of 145, Sharapova said she hoped to get her creaking body back into shape to be competitive once more -- but she was far from convincing.

"I would like to, I don't know," she replied.

"I don't have a crystal ball to tell you if I can or if I will, but I would love to."

Sharapova uncertain over Australian Open return after first-round loss

(1/20/20) Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova admitted she does not know if she will be back at the Australian Open next year after suffering a first-round defeat in Melbourne on Tuesday.

The former world number one, playing on a wildcard, is set to drop below 350 in the rankings following her 3-6, 4-6 defeat to Croatia's 19th-seeded Donna Vekic.

It was the 32-year-old Sharapova's third first-round exit in a row at Grand Slam tournaments, and will increase speculation over her future.

Sharapova, banned for 15 months for failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open, was unable to say whether she would return next year.

"I don't know, I don't know," said the Russian, already ranked a lowly 145th, when asked by AFP if she would be back at Melbourne Park in 2021.

"It's tough for me to tell what's going to happen in 12 months' time."

Sharapova, who won the Australian Open in 2008, was similarly vague about the months or even weeks ahead.

"Honestly, I'd give you the answer, I just don't know," she said about what tournaments she will play in the near future.

"I haven't thought of my schedule moving forward from here yet."

- Haunted look -

Against Vekic there were flashes of the form that helped make Sharapova one of the most marketable women in sport, but she carried a haunted look at times, too.

After missing large chunks of last year with a shoulder injury, she needed a wildcard to compete in Melbourne.

Playing on the centre court, Rod Laver Arena -- a sign of Sharapova's enduring pulling power -- she lost the first set in 36 minutes.

She broke to go 4-1 up in the second set, but Vekic struck back and sealed victory on the second match point when Sharapova fired wildly wide.

Sharapova said she was not taking much notice of her plummeting ranking.

"Last year I think I played seven or eight tournaments so I don't know if I can look at the ranking and really think about it in depth," she said, cutting a forlorn figure.

"Just because I really haven't played and I was injured most of the year.

"You know, I certainly have to take that into account."

Sharapova, who last lost in the Melbourne first round in 2010, has struggled for form and fitness since returning from the ban for taking meldonium.

Sharapova, once a rival to Serena Williams at the top of women's tennis, refused to blame her right shoulder problem for her latest early exit.

"I can speak about my struggles and the things that I've gone through with my shoulder, but it's not really in my character to," she said.

"I was there, I put myself out there (playing).

"As tough as it was, I finished the match -- it wasn't the way that I wanted."

Vekic plays France's Alize Cornet or qualifier Monica Niculescu of Romania in round two.

Vekic ousts 5-time major winner Sharapova at Australian Open

(1/20/20) Maria Sharapova hasn't won a tournament since 2017, and her ranking slipped to 136th by the end of last year.

After a 6-3, 6-4 loss to 19th-seeded Donna Vekic at the Australian Open on Tuesday, former No. 1-ranked Sharapova is on a run of three first-round exits at the Grand Slam tournaments.

The five-time major winner got into the main draw at Melbourne Park via a wild card granted by organizers, helped by the fact she won the 2008 title here. Drawing Vekic in the first round was tough.

The 32-year-old Russian has had a series of right shoulder injuries and also served a 15-month suspension for a positive doping test to meldonium. Since her return from the suspension, her best showing at a major has been the quarterfinals at the 2018 French Open.

She reached the fourth round in Australia last year, and her profile means she still gets a spot on center court. It was only Vekic's second time on Rod Laver Arena.

'''always enjoy the big stages,'''' Vekic siad. ''''I'm happy to leave with a win this time.''

Johanna Konta, a 2016 Australian Open semifinalist, lost her first-round match to Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-2. It was only her second match since she lost in the quarterfinals of last year's U.S. Open because of a tendinitis-related problem in her right knee.

The 12th-seeded Konta lost in the first round at the Brisbane International and then withdrew from the Adelaide International in an attempt to manage her injury. Even before she left for Australia, the British No. 1 told officials she wouldn't play Fed Cup this year.

Konta had always made at least the second round in four previous appearances in the main draw here. Still, she was upbeat after the loss.

''I think ultimately the main thing was to start playing again, and I am,'' she said. ''And how I physically felt out there is obviously a massive tick for me compared to where I was in September of last year. Before Brisbane, I had been out for almost 4-1/2 months. So it's been quite a bit of time, not far off getting a protected ranking.''

Jabeur said her goal this year is to make it into the top 20 - she's currently 78th - and to inspire other African Arab players to pick up the sport.

''It would be nice to see more of us out here on tour,'' Jabeur said.

After torrential rain hit Melbourne Park on Day 1, organizers had to move dozens of matches over to Tuesday.

Second-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 7-5 and sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic advanced 6-3, 7-5 over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

In a men's match suspended from Monday, 18-year-old Jannik Sinner completed a 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-4 win over Australian qualifier Max Purcell, 2018 Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic beat Corentin Moutet 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

No. 12-seeded Fabio Fognini lost the first two sets Monday against Reilly Opelka but rallied Tuesday to win 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-3 7-6 (5), including the 10-point tiebreaker in the final set. Milos Raonic returned to play two games to finish off Lorenzo Giustino 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.

Sinner, the Next Gen ATP Finals champion, only had to win two games on Day 2 to complete his first match win at a Grand Slam event.

''I was up in the score, so it was a little bit easier for me,'' Sinner said of the suspension. ''Obviously I wanted to finish yesterday. We waited here till 8 p.m., so it's been a long day yesterday for me, for every player.''

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal was playing his first-round match against Hugo Dellien. Only one of Nadal's 19 Grand Slam singles titles have come at the Australian Open - in 2009- and he lost last year's final to Novak Djokovic.

Maria Sharapova abandons match and Australian Open qualifying suspended again for bushfire smoke

(1/15/20) The Australian Open next week is in crisis after a player collapsed in qualifying due to the "unhealthy" air in Melbourne from ongoing bushfires, while Maria Sharapova has cut short an exhibition match.

Play in qualifying has been suspended on Wednesday as outrage grows about the organisers' decision to press ahead.

The unfortunate player – Slovenia’s Delila Jakupovic – later spoke of her fear as she found herself unable to breathe during her first-round qualifying match, saying she was “angry and sad” that she had been asked to go on court despite an air-quality reading rated as “hazardous”.

On a chaotic day in air conditions rated "the worst in the world", Maria Sharapova called off her exhibition match after less than two sets.

Eugenie Bouchard left the court after struggling to breathe and world number five Elina Svitolina asked the authorities "why do we have to wait for something bad to happen" before they take action.

And with just five days to go until the start of the main event it has emerged that Tennis Australia's contingency plan for dealing with more bushfire smoke over the next three weeks is also being called into question.

Play in qualifying was suspended for a second time on Wednesday: this time for rain.

The eight indoor courts in the National Tennis Centre at the south-east corner of the site have been seen as a potential escape route in the case of consistently polluted conditions. But when Great Britain’s Jay Clarke tried to warm up for his match in the NTC, he found the courts unusable after smoke found its way in through the ventilation system.

“There was talk of it [the qualifying matches] moving indoors,” said Clarke, who later suffered a hip injury and lost in three sets. “But we actually went over to the NTC and it was worse. They have got permanent vents open so when it [the smoke] got in it wasn't able to get out. No players were practising indoors over there, and I ended up warming up outdoors.”

Air quality has declined over the last week and an an easterly wind change on Tuesday morning brought a fresh wave of smoke in from the many fires burning in East Gippsland, some 200 miles away. Brett Sutton, Victoria’s chief health officer, said that Melbourne’s air quality had dropped to "the worst in the world" overnight as cooler temperatures brought particles in the air closer to the ground.

The City of Melbourne issued warnings to its citizens and their pets to stay inside wherever possible, while the day’s horse-racing was cancelled and local Australian Rules football teams postponed practice. Builders were also recommended to down tools, but Tennis Australia’s main response to was to delay play for an hour on the first day of qualifying, so that it started at 11am rather than 10.

Although conditions seemed to improve a little in that period, they worsened again around lunchtime, and it was at 2.30pm that Jakupovic – a 28-year-old ranked No 180 in the world – fell to her knees while leading her match 6-4, 5-6. She retired almost immediately, too concerned about her health to remember that she stood only a few points from victory.

“I think it was not fair because it's not healthy for us,” Jakupovic explained, when she felt well enough to speak to reporters almost two hours later. “I thought we would not be playing today. We don't have much choice. If we don't go on the court, maybe we get fined. It would maybe have been better to wait to see if tomorrow is better.”

Asked to describe how she had felt on the court, Jakupovic replied “It was really bad. I never experienced something like this and I was really scared. When I was on the ground it was easier to get some air.”

At around the same time, Sharapova brought an early end to her exhibition match with Laura Siegemund in nearby Kooyong, later explaining that “I think both of us felt it. This is obviously maybe more extreme than some of the other conditions we’ve had.”

Back at Melbourne Park, a ballboy was taken ill during Clarke’s match, while Bouchard left the court for around ten minutes before the start of her third set, and Bernard Tomic asked for an inhaler. Spectators were also seen wearing masks to protect themselves from hazardous air.

“It’s definitely a tricky call for the tournament director,” said Bouchard later. “I started feeling unwell and nauseous so I called the trainer. The air was heavy and it was tough to breathe. We are all here and we all want to play so it’s a tough balance. With what is going on, our issues are at the bottom of the list compared to everyone who is really suffering with the fires but as athletes it’s not the most ideal conditions.”

Tennis Australia have stuck to their policy of weighing up evidence from on-site testing equipment, medical experts and meteorologists. But Liam Broady, the British No five, accused them of double standards. The lower-ranked players in the qualifying draw were asked to play outside while the top performers were able to practise under a roof in the three big air-conditioned stadia: Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and Melbourne Arena.

“I don't think qualifiers are treated the same way as the main-draw players,” said Broady, who won only three games and later suggested that his high fitness levels had been neutralised by the appalling air quality. “I think that is the same at every tournament. Maybe we have to earn the right to be treated like the main-draw players do, but at the same time we are all human beings and there is no doubt that this is pretty bad for you to be running around in these conditions.”

Several players of both genders expressed their concern on social media. "It is time for a players' union," said the Canadian player Vasek Pospisil. "This is becoming absurd."

Mandy Minella, who was due to take the court today, said “Shocked to see that qualifying matches have started. What about the health of all the people that have to work out there, especially the ballkids? Where are the limits?"

Australian Open qualifier collapses on court due to bushfire smoke as players left 'gasping for air' in Melbourne

(1/13/20) Tennis Australia faced fierce criticism on Tuesday after a player retired with breathing difficulties and others were left "gasping for air" in the opening round of qualifying matches for the Australian Open.

Dalila Jakupovic, the world No 180 from Slovenia, was leading her match 6-4, 5-6 when she fell to her knees and told officials that she could no longer continue.

The air quality index in Melbourne on Tuesday morning was over 200 – meaning hazardous – as smoke from bushfires raging across the country blanketed Melbourne in a thick, grey haze.

Once she had taken some time to recover, Jakupovic told reporters that she was angry at being asked to play in such unhealthy conditions.

“I am angry and sad,” she said. “I think it was not fair because it's not healthy for us. I was surprised. I thought we would not be playing today. We don't have much choice. If we don't go on the court, maybe we get fined. It would maybe have been better to wait to see if tomorrow is better. They still have time, there is no rush. It is the first day.”

Asked to describe how she felt on the court, Jakupovic replied: “It was really bad. I never experienced something like this and I was really scared. I was scared that I would collapse. That’s why I went on the floor. Because I couldn’t walk any more. And I couldn’t stretch myself. When I was on the ground it was easier to get some air.”

She is not asthmatic and has never used an inhaler until one was provided to her on the court. Asked if she felt she was owed an apology by Tennis Australia, Jakupovic said: “I don’t know what to say. I never experienced something like this so I don’t know how this works and how it goes to say whose fault it is or whose it’s not.”

The City of Melbourne had earlier issued warnings to its citizens and their pets to stay inside wherever possible.

Brett Sutton, the state's chief health officer, said he believed air quality had dropped to the "worst in the world" overnight as cooler temperatures brought particles in the air close to the ground.

Builders were recommended to down tools, but Tennis Australia’s only response to the high level of pollution was to delay play for an hour.

The British player Liam Broady gave an insight into what it was like to play at Melbourne Park in the morning after he suffered a heavy 6-3, 6-0 defeat at the hands of Ilya Ivashka of Belarus. He also suggested that lesser-ranked players are treated as second-class citizens by the tennis authorities.

“This morning I warmed up and then I was most surprised by how bad it still was when I was walking out to the court,” said Broady, the world No 234. “You can hardly see the buildings over there.

"I would like to think I am properly fit at the moment and after four games I was absolutely gassed,” Broady added. “At 6-3, 3-0 down, when you are supposed to be relatively fresh, I was bent double and gasping for air. My fitness is one of the best parts of my game but I definitely didn't feel great.

“Personally I don't think qualifiers are treated the same way as the main-draw players. I think that is the same at every tournament. Maybe we have to earn the right to be treated like the main-draw players do but at the same time we are all human beings and there is no doubt that this is pretty bad for you to be running around in these conditions.”

Earlier, there had been a formal statement from Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley, speaking in front of TV cameras at Melbourne Park’s Garden Square.

“This is new for all of us,” he said shortly after play started at 11am. “We follow the advice of medical experts and environmental scientists and the health and wellbeing of the players, fans and staff is crucial to the decisions we make.

“This morning when we got up, the smoke haze was significant. Based on that advice we took a decision to suspend practice, and to start the qualifying matches an hour later than it was originally scheduled. During the period of when we suspended practice there was an improvement in conditions, and we took the medical advice as well as the scientists’ advice and the meteorology and made the decision to continue with play at 11am.”

The conditions at around 11am were reasonably manageable. When the first winner – Shelby Rogers of the USA – came off court shortly after midday, she told the Telegraph that “the air was a little bit tough today” but added that “maybe we’re not the priority” when homeowners around the country are fearing for their property.

But by 2.30pm – which is when Jakupovic retired – the air had become thicker and heavier with drifting smoke from the bushfires around the state of Victoria.

She had her pulse and blood pressure checked in the first set, and then was given an inhaler towards the end of the match, but it was painful to see her struggle for breath in the challenging conditions.

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, a finalist at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships, also left the court, complaining of a sore chest.

She later returned to play the final set following the medical timeout.

“It’s heavy out there,” a tennis insider told the Telegraph, around an hour before Jakupovic’s retirement.

“The one thing you could maybe argue for is to use a facemask at the change of ends. But the only good advice in these conditions is to stay inside whenever possible. The National Tennis Centre [which has eight indoor courts] will be taking a hammering, practice booked from 7am to 10pm and everyone gets an hour each.

"Out among the qualifying, I wouldn’t be surprised if some players have breathing difficulties today. If the top players were performing, they would have closed the roof – that’s a stone-cold certainty.”

Other top players, including former world number one Maria Sharapova, were preparing for the year's first Grand Slam at the warmup Kooyong Classic on Tuesday in Melbourne's eastern suburbs where air quality was rated "very poor".

Russian Sharapova's match with Germany's Laura Siegemund was called off with Siegemend leading 7-6 5-5 after both players complained to the chair umpire.

"After two and a half hours that was the right call for me. I think both of us felt it," Sharapova told reporters.

"This is obviously maybe more extreme than some of the other conditions we’ve had but other than you just have to be ready."

A number of players who arrived in Melbourne ahead of the Grand Slam starting on Monday expressed surprise that organisers would allow qualifying to go ahead.

"Shocked to see that qualifying matches have started @AustralianOpen," Luxembourg professional Mandy Minella, who is competing as a qualifier, tweeted.

"What about the health of all the people that have to work out there, especially the ballkids? #wherearethelimits?"

Australian Open tournament director, Craig Tiley, said last week that he was hopeful the tournament would go ahead but said air quality would be closely monitored.

"We have committed substantial extra resources to analysis, monitoring and logistics to ensure the health and safety of all players, staff and fans throughout the summer and have no other plans to move events (following the cancellation of an event in Australia's capital Canberra)," Mr Tiley said in a statement.

Maria Sharapova handed wildcard for Australian Open

(1/8/20) Former world No 1 Maria Sharapova will be awarded a wildcard to play at this month's Australian Open.

The 32-year-old Russian is currently ranked 147th in the world after a season in which a long-standing shoulder injury restricted her to eight tournaments.

Sharapova played her first match since losing in the first round of last year's US Open at the Brisbane International on Tuesday but was defeated 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(3) by American qualifier Jennifer Brady.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed this morning that the 2008 champion will receive a wildcard entry into the main singles draw for the tournament, which starts in Melbourne on Jan 20.

The five-times Grand Slam champion has been troubled by shoulder problems throughout her career and underwent surgery early last year, with lingering problems hampering her throughout the 2019 season.

Thank you!! — Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) January 8, 2020

"I've been fighting virus for a couple weeks and ended up in the hospital the other day, so that wasn't fun," Sharapova said after her loss in Brisbane.

"I just couldn't keep anything in (but) that's the extent that I'm going to share with you."

Sharapova lost to Ash Barty in the fourth round of last year's Australian Open.

Australia reveals 'new concept' for women's tennis after scheduling row

(1/8/20) Australian tennis officials said they were working on a "new concept" for women's tennis on Wednesday after top players complained they were being shunted aside to make way for the men's ATP Cup.

Brisbane International tournament director Mark Handley said tennis in Australia was in a "transitional period" following the introduction of the ATP Cup, whose inaugural edition is being played in Brisbane, Sydney and Perth.

Maria Sharapova and Sloane Stephens have strongly criticised scheduling at the WTA Brisbane International, also being played at the Queensland Tennis Centre, saying women's players had been unfairly relegated to the outside courts.

"It feels like a little bit of a second-hand event," said Sharapova, while fellow Major-winner Stephens fumed: "It was what the ATP (men's tour) wanted -- they got what they wanted, girls to the side, that's kind of how it always is."

Tournament director Handley, while not directly addressing the concerns, said Tennis Australia was looking at a new format for the women in 2021.

"We are working with the tours to create an Australian summer of tennis that is an incredible global launch to the international tennis season," Handley said.

"The ATP Cup is the first step in that and now we are in great talks with the WTA about a new concept and are really excited about the potential in this space."

Initial responses were positive, with former US Open runner-up Madison Keys saying she would welcome a women's version of the ATP Cup.

"I definitely love the idea of adding a team event into the season," she said.

"I think it would be really fun. We all love playing Fed Cup, and I think being able to do that during the season for a WTA event would be really fun."

Sixteen-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic also said a women's version of the ATP Cup would work well.

"Why not? I mean, I think this kind of format is something that would, I think, bring benefits as well and kind of positive outcomes for the WTA tour," he said, after Serbia made it three wins from three in the round-robin stage with a 2-1 win over Chile.

"Of course, I don't know what are the numbers and how is that going to affect their schedule, but it would make sense, considering the fact that we have the ATP Cup also played in Australia.

"They're playing the WTA tour here in Brisbane as well, in Auckland, so most of the top players from the female side are in Australia already, so I think it would make sense."

Sharapova slams 'second-hand' Brisbane event as men take over

(1/7/20) Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova said the Brisbane International felt like "a second-hand event" with women relegated to outside courts to make way for men playing the inaugural ATP Cup.

The WTA tournament is being run alongside the Brisbane leg of the men's new team tournament, which has taken over centre court at the Queensland Tennis Centre.

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens blasted organisers on Tuesday, accusing them of favouring the male players and not respecting women, with Sharapova also weighing in.

"You definitely recognise it and notice it," she said, with even Australian world number one Ashleigh Barty, who is his hugely popular in Brisbane, relegated to an outside court.

"It feels like a little bit of a second-hand event."

The ATP Cup's last round-robin matches in Brisbane are on Wednesday, meaning the women can only play on centre court from Thursday.

Under the ATP Cup's innovative tournament rules, on-court coaching is allowed and team zones are in the corners of the court, rather than on the sidelines by the umpire.

Sharapova, who crashed in the first round to American Jennifer Brady on Tuesday evening, suggested this could be a reason why women were not allowed to share centre court.

"It's definitely a bit of a strange strategic move," she said of favouring the men.

"I'm not sure (but) I heard that because the way that the court is constructed, that it's not regulation for us to be playing on centre court with the benches on the side.

"I don't know what else it might be that's preventing (us playing there), because I think there's a lot of girls that are deserving of that centre court spot in this draw.

"Everyone should have a conversation about it, that's just my outside view," she added.

Barty heads a high-quality field in Brisbane, which includes four of the women's top five.

Stephens, who is on the WTA players' council, said it was clear women had been sidelined.

"We just weren't in the conversation to even be considered," she said.

"It was what the ATP wanted -- they got what they wanted, girls to the side, that's kind of how it always is."

Djokovic matches Sharapova's $25k donation to bushfire victims

(1/6/20) Novak Djokovic matched Maria Sharapova's donation of $25,000 to help those affected by bushfires in Australia.

Bushfires have ravaged large parts of the country in recent months, with New South Wales and Victoria hugely impacted.

Sportspeople have rallied to raise funds for victims and Sharapova and Djokovic offered their help as the duo prepare for the upcoming Australian Open.

"The month of January in Australia has been my [home emoji] for the past 15 years," Sharapova wrote on Twitter.

"Watching the fires destroy the lands, its beautiful families and communities of animals is deeply [heartbreak emoji].

"I would like to begin my donation at 25K. @DjokerNole, would you match my donation? #letsallcometogether."

Djokovic responded on Monday, writing: "Yes, @MariaSharapova I would like to match your $25k donation to double the aid sent to these communities. We stand by you, #Australia."

World number two Djokovic will be aiming for an eighth Australian Open title and 17th major when the grand slam starts on January 20 in Melbourne.

Sharapova to return next month as Brisbane wildcard

(12/31/19) Former world number one Maria Sharapova will return to tournament action at the Brisbane International next month after being awarded a wildcard to play in the Australian Open warm-up.

The five-times Grand Slam champion, who last played a competitive match in the first round of the U.S. Open in August, has dropped to 133rd in the world after a season in which injuries restricted her to eight tournaments.

The 32-year-old Russian will join current world number one Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova in a strong field at the Queensland Tennis Centre from Jan. 6-12.

Sharapova's lowly ranking means she will also need a wildcard to get directly into the main singles draw for this year's Australian Open, which begins on Jan. 20.

Sharapova won her third major title at Melbourne Park in 2008 but also tested positive for a banned substance at the tournament in 2016 and served a 15-month suspension from the game.

Sharapova still has 'fire and motivation' despite 2019 misery

(12/20/19) Maria Sharapova insisted Thursday that she still has the "internal fire and motivation" to compete professionally, despite the lingering shoulder problem that kept her out of action for long stretches this season.

The former world number one was only able to play in eight events in 2019, contesting just 15 matches in total.

The Russian five-time major champion made her first on-court appearance since her US Open first round exit in August in an exhibition in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, where she fought back from a break down in each set to defeat Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 7-5.

"Any chance that I get to come out and play competitively is a really good day because I just haven't played a lot," Sharapova told reporters at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

"Definitely I'm coming out of this match happy that I was out there again and it can only get better from here."

While she wouldn't reveal too many details about the state of her shoulder injury, she did say she "felt fine" after her clash with Tomljanovic, while keeping her expectations in check having been sidelined for nearly four months.

Sharapova plans on travelling Down Under for next month's Australian Open but confirmed she will not be playing the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

With many question marks still surrounding her form and her shoulder, she's unsure what her 2020 calendar will look like.

"I think that will be one of the biggest challenges for the new year, it's to have a set schedule," said the 32-year-old.

"I definitely look forward to going to Australia and seeing how things go, see how the body holds up there.

- 'In awe of Nadal' -

"It's tough to tell, I've barely played any events last year. The start and stopping was one of the most challenging parts of the year as well, just when you think I got going a little bit I had to tone it down and stop and then just keep training. Although it seems I haven't played actually I've been working a lot."

The US-based Russian will fly home for Christmas, then compete in a couple of exhibition matches in Hawaii, before heading to Australia where she plans on playing a warm-up event ahead of the opening Grand Slam of the season in Melbourne.

Asked how she's been able to maintain her spirits during her lengthy struggle with injuries, Sharapova added: "I really love what I do. I think you see it when I am on the court, when I do have the chance to compete, I really enjoy being there. I really have a great purpose for what I do.

"I have goals and dreams for life after tennis, but I still have that internal fire and motivation. Really, all on my mind when I wake up is getting into my sports gear and going out and working to be a better tennis player."

Now down at 131 in the world rankings, Sharapova insists she hasn't considered retirement from the sport just yet, and realises injuries are part of every athlete's life.

She said she takes inspiration from Rafael Nadal, who has had his fair share of injuries himself.

"I'm in awe of his whole career. I think a lot of it is being really smart strategically about his schedule.

"From his point of view, he likes a lot of matches to feel confident, but you need to be healthy in order to do that, so you have to make the right decisions and that's certainly something that I can learn from him," she said of the Spanish world number one and 19-time major winner who is also competing at the UAE tournament.

Maria Sharapova appears set to miss Tokyo Olympics

(12/10/19) Maria Sharapova, who would have a difficult time qualifying for the Olympics next year, committed to play an event in California the week of the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova is scheduled to play World Team Tennis matches in California during the Olympic tennis events in late July, according to a press release. Sharapova’s longtime agent hasn’t responded to a message seeking confirmation that she is ruling out the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova, 32 and the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was barred from the Rio Games due to her 15-month meldonium suspension in 2016 and 2017. That alone could rule her ineligible for Tokyo, given the World Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions against Russia on Monday.

Sharapova is ranked No. 131 after a season shortened by shoulder surgery. She would have to be among the top four ranked Russian women after the French Open in June for possible automatic Olympic qualification. She is currently the 14th Russian.

Olympic eligibility rules include minimum participation requirements in Fed Cup, which Sharapova hasn’t done in this Olympic cycle, though exceptions can be made.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said in 2017. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility. One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

Injury-dogged Sharapova commits to 2020 tennis return

(10/8/19) Maria Sharapova said on Tuesday that she could make a comeback at Luxembourg next week after her troublesome shoulder forced her to withdraw injured from the WTA indoor event in Linz.

The five-time Grand Slam winner dropped out of the Austrian tournament last week but says that she could play in the Luxembourg tournament which starts October 14, even though her main focus is to get healthy for the 2020 season.

"I'm back on track now," said Sharapova, whose last match was a crushing first round loss to Serena Williams in the US Open.

"I'm doing all the right things, but I might need a little more time. I might play next week. I'll test the shoulder with a couple of practice sets.

"I'm not in a rush. The main goal is to get healthy, put in the work and play a good schedule in 2020. I want to work my way into 2020 and be healthy."

The 32-year-old missed more than four months, in the wake of right shoulder surgery. She returned for the grass-court season but was then forced out of Wimbledon by a left forearm injury.

She won the last of her five Grand Slam titles at the 2014 French Open and served a one-year ban following a failed drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open.

"The shoulder has been weak link in body for many years. This year it got pretty bad. I didn't play for most of the season," she said.

"But those are the ups and downs an athlete goes through. I have the motivation to get better. I know there are no limits to what you can achieve."

Sharapova has been attempting to strengthen her shoulder with a new coaching team headed by Italian Riccardo Piatti, spending the last three weeks at his training complex on the Italian Riviera, near the border with France.

"For a few months this year the shoulder felt quite good, during the lead-up on grass," she said of her 2019 season.

"But I played a hard match on cement in Canada and that hurt me for the next few weeks."

Sharapova flew to Austria from Nice for sponsor and tournament commitments, and said that -- like 38-year-old icon Roger Federer -- she has no timetable for ending her career.

"I've never had a certain goal of how long to play. When I was a young woman of 19, I'm sure I didn't think I'd be playing past 30," she said.

"I'm closer to the finish than the beginning or middle of my career -- but who knows."

'I believe in my ability', says defiant Sharapova

(8/26/19) Maria Sharapova said she remains confident in her ability to compete with the best despite Monday's crushing defeat by old foe Serena Williams in the first round of the US Open.

Five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova was ruthlessly dumped out in just 59 minutes on Arthur Ashe as Williams beat the Russian for the 19th time in a row to improve her record in the rivalry to 20-2.

"Bottom line is I believe in my ability," said Sharapova, who has slipped to 87th in the world rankings after another season marred by injury.

"You can write me off. There are many people that can write me off, especially after going down 6-1, 6-1 in the first round of the US Open. As long as it's not the person that's inside of you, you'll be OK."

The 32-year-old had missed more than four months in the wake of right shoulder surgery when she returned for the grass court season this year. She was then forced out of Wimbledon by a left forearm injury.

The 2006 US Open winner last won a Slam at the 2014 French Open and served a one-year ban following a failed test at the 2016 Australian Open.

Sharapova upset Simona Halep in the first round here two years ago but could not revive that magic in the showcase opening-night match in the year's final Grand Slam tournament.

"I don't think of it as setback or traction. I have to keep going. There's no other way. There's no easy road about it," she said.

"That's the stage that you play for. That's where I played as a teenager. That's where I fortunately get to play like tonight. I mean, you work hard, we all do, in order to get to that stage, because that's where the finals are. That's where you want to be."

- 'Easy to be discouraged' -

For Sharapova, who suffered early exits this month in Toronto and Cincinnati, it was her first opening-round loss in 13 appearances in New York.

She has won just one title, the 2017 Tianjin Open, in the past four years and admitted it had been a "long journey" just to reach the hardcourt season.

"It's not an easy road. It has never been. But I went through a shoulder procedure about four months ago. To find myself playing at a night match at the US Open with people excited about the matchup, it's a pretty big deal," said Sharapova.

"I'm fortunate to be a part of that. It's easy to be discouraged after a match like this. But if I'm personally discouraged, I wake up tomorrow, I don't feel like I want to go out, train, be better, that's more discouraging than the result."

"Just getting the routines back and being back in the draws is ... it's tough to talk about after a defeat, but it's a long road," she continued.

"It's facing an opponent that's at her stature is extremely difficult in the first round of a Slam, coming in with the fact that I haven't played that much. But those are the situations that I have to keep putting myself in and coming out of them."

Serena routs Sharapova to reach U.S. Open second round

(8/26/19) Serena Williams trounced old foe Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-1 in their blockbuster first round clash at the U.S. Open on Monday to get her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title off to a flying start.

Williams, in her first U.S. Open match since her infamous row with the chair umpire overshadowed her loss in last year's final, used her trademark power to overwhelm Sharapova in the first New York meeting between two of the sport's biggest names.

Eighth seed Williams showed no signs of the back spasms that forced her to retire in tears from the Toronto final two weeks ago and instead showcased some of her best on-court movement since returning from maternity leave in 2018.

Williams, who last faced Sharapova at the 2016 Australian Open, improved to 20-2 in career meetings versus the Russian, who has fallen to 87th in the rankings amid an injury-hit 2019 season that included shoulder surgery in February.

Next up for Williams will be American wildcard Catherine McNally, who beat Swiss Timea Bacsinszky 6-4 6-1 earlier on Monday.

Serena-Sharapova and Federer play Monday night at US Open

(8/24/19) Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will meet in Monday night's first feature match at the US Open with 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer following them on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Schedules for the first two days of the year's final Grand Slam were released Friday by the US Tennis Association following the completion of qualifying matches.

Eighth-seeded American Williams, trying to capture her 24th Grand Slam singles title to match the all-time record held by Margaret Court, has a 19-2 record against the Russian, a five-time Grand Slam winner.

Following the dramatic night opener will be third-seeded Federer against India's Sumit Nagal.

Monday's day session begins with reigning French Open champion Ashleigh Barty, the second seed from Australia, facing Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.

Top-ranked defending champion Novak Djokovic launches his bid for his fifth title in six Grand Slam events after that against Spaniard Roberto Carbella Baena.

Monday's schedule at Louis Armstrong Stadium includes Czech third seed Karolina Pliskova, chasing her first major title, against compatriot Tereza Martincova, India's Prajnesh Gunneswaran against Russian fifth seed Daniil Medvedev and China's Zheng Saisai against seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams.

Tuesday's schedule was also revealed with top-seeded defending women's champion Naomi Osaka of Japan in the opener on Arthur Ashe Stadium against Russia's Anna Blinkova.

Austrian fourth seed Dominic Thiem meets Italy's Thomas Fabbiano in the next match.

Spanish second seed Rafael Nadal opens the night session against Australian John Millman, who upset Federer in last year's first round, with 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens, the US 11th seed, facing Russia's Anna Kalinskaya.

US 15-year-old Coco Gauff, in the event on a wildcard after a run to the fourth round at Wimbledon in her Slam singles debut, opens against Russia's Anastasia Potapova on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Other Tuesday matches there find Greek eighth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas against Russia's Andrey Rublev and Romanian fourth seed Simona Halep, who beat Serena Williams in last month's Wimbledon final, facing American Nicole Gibbs.

Serena vs. Sharapova set for prime time on Day 1 of US Open

(8/24/19) Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova is, not surprisingly, getting primetime billing at the U.S. Open.

The two tennis stars' 22nd career meeting - and first at Flushing Meadows - will be the opening act in Arthur Ashe Stadium for the night session on Monday as the year's last Grand Slam tournament gets started.

''Of course I'm going to watch it. I know you all are going to watch it. I think everyone in New York is going to watch it,'' defending champion and No. 1 seed Naomi Osaka said Friday. ''Yeah, I mean, for me, I'm not that surprised that that happened, because, like, at every Grand Slam, there is always some sort of drama. You know what I mean? Like a first round. Like, 'Oh, my God!'''

The U.S. Tennis Association announced the show-court schedules for both Day 1 and Day 2.

That includes 15-year-old Coco Gauff in action at Louis Armstrong Stadium on Tuesday.

The first match in the main stadium Monday will be French Open champion Ash Barty against Zarina Diyas, followed by defending men's champion and No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic against Roberto Carballes Baena.

Then at night, Williams-Sharapova will be followed by 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer against qualifier Sumit Nagal.

Williams owns 23 major singles trophies, while Sharapova has five. Both have been ranked No. 1. They've met at every other major tournament at least once, including in a final at each, but never before at the U.S. Open. Williams has won 18 matches in a row against Sharapova, and leads their overall series 19-2.

In Louis Armstrong Stadium on Monday, the day slate includes Williams' older sister, two-time U.S. Open champion Venus, 2016 runner-up Karolina Pliskova and No. 5 seed Daniil Medvedev, while the night program features three-time major champ Stan Wawrinka and 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys.

Tuesday's participants in Ashe include Osaka and two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem during the afternoon, with 18-time major title winner Rafael Nadal and 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens in action at night.

In addition to Gauff's first-round match against Anastasia Potapova, Day 2 in Armstrong will include two-time major champion Simona Halep and Australian Open semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas in the afternoon, along with two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and the combustible Nick Kyrgios against American Steve Johnson at night.

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova poised for fascinating re-opening of rivalry after being drawn together in US Open first round

(8/22/19) As if Serena Williams’s return to the US Open did not feel intriguing enough, after the unpleasant scenes that disfigured last year’s trophy presentation to Naomi Osaka, the draw has added another layer of fascination by pitting her against her old foe Maria Sharapova in the first round.

These two giants of the game have not contested a match since the Australian Open quarter-final of 2016, where Williams extended her unbeaten streak in their one-sided rivalry to 18 matches and 12 years. That was also the match after which Sharapova gave the urine sample that resulted in her Meldonium suspension.

Williams and Sharapova were supposed to meet at the French Open last year but Williams pulled out citing a pectoral injury. So, a lot has happened since that day on Rod Laver Arena in 2016, when Williams was largely untroubled in driving home a 6-4, 6-1 victory.

Most recently, Williams was forced to retire from the final of the Rogers Cup in Toronto with a back injury. Since she returned from maternity leave, she has suffered from the ageing tennis player’s Catch 22: you need more matches to be competitive, but each match adds to the wear and tear on your body.

As for Sharapova, her name has not been cropping up much in the tennis debate of late. A regular target for paparazzi photographers, who have enjoyed snapping her alongside British boyfriend Alexander Gilke, she made a strong showing in January with a run to the fourth round of the Australian Open, but has won only three more matches since. Her long-term shoulder injury has been troubling her again and she was reported to have undergone another minor operation on it in March.

If Sharapova is coming towards the end of her tennis career – as many pundits suspect – then this draw has handed her a fine opportunity for a dramatic swansong. She may have suffered much at the hands of Williams over the past decade, but her first victory in this head-to-head sequence is still surely the most memorable moment of her career, coming as it did in the 2004 Wimbledon final when she was only 17.

This match is sure to be scheduled on Arthur Ashe Stadium – the biggest stage in the sport, with its capacity of almost 24,000 spectators. And the presence of two A-list celebrities is likely to mean that most seats are taken.

Even at 37, Williams remains the chief American hope in every event she enters. She remains one major short of equalling Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24, despite contesting three grand-slam finals – all of them defeats – in the past 14 months.

Last year’s US Open final proved particularly memorable, though not necessarily for the right reasons, as Williams suffered three code violations – for coaching, racket abuse and verbal abuse – on her way to a 6-2, 6-4 defeat. On Sunday, ESPN screened a documentary – Backstory: Serena vs The Umpire – that called it “the ugliest finish in grand-slam history”.

Meanwhile British No 1 Kyle Edmund has drawn Pablo Andujar – the 33-year-old Spaniard, ranked No 71 in the world – who beat him in last year’s Marrakech final.

Edmund’s counterpart Johanna Konta will play the tricky Russian Daria Kasatkina, who enjoys throwing in a drop-shot or five.

First-round fireworks: Serena, Sharapova to meet at US Open

(8/22/19) Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will finally meet in the U.S. Open, and they'll do it in their very first match.

A long-awaited Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal showdown could come only in the final.

Williams and Sharapova, past U.S. Open champions and two of the biggest stars in women's tennis, were scheduled for an opening-round matchup when the draws were conducted Thursday for the final major of the year.

Williams and Sharapova have met in the finals of the other three majors and the 2012 Olympics but have never played each other in the U.S. Open. Williams owns a 19-2 record in their WTA Tour matchups and has won 18 in a row, but that lopsided number shouldn't do much to dampen the hype around what will be the marquee match of the opening round at Flushing Meadows, which starts Monday.

Williams will begin another bid for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title. Sharapova isn't the same player she was when she won the 2006 U.S. Open championship - or beat Williams two years earlier in the final at Wimbledon - but remains one of the most popular players among fans in New York.

She was given a wild card into the tournament two years ago shortly after returning from a doping suspension and promptly scheduled for a match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, where she upset No. 2 seed Simona Halep. U.S. Open officials kept putting Sharapova on the main court in her next couple of matches, drawing complaints from some players who felt an unseeded player wasn't worthy of such a prime position.

That shouldn't be a problem this time, as a Williams-Sharapova matchup is too big for anywhere other than Ashe.

They haven't played since the 2016 Australian Open. They were scheduled to meet last year in the fourth round at the French Open in what was Williams' first major tournament after returning to tennis following the birth of her daughter, but she pulled out of the match with a pectoral muscle injury.

The men's draw sent No. 3 seed Federer into the top half, meaning he could play top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. They met in a classic final at Wimbledon, where Djokovic won in a fifth-set tiebreaker.

Federer and No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal have never played each other in New York and could do so this year only if both make the final.

Djokovic might have to beat both to repeat as U.S. Open champion - and could face a tough obstacle just to get there with a potential quarterfinal against No. 5 seed Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev upset Djokovic in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open en route to the title in what was his third straight week reaching a final.

Unlike some players, Djokovic said he does look at his draw beyond the next match to see his potential path. But he resisted the first opportunity to do it, declining an offer to peek at his bracket during an interview on ESPN when the draws were unveiled.

''I need my alone time,'' Djokovic said.

Nadal faces a potential first-round test against John Millman, the Australian who knocked Federer out in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows last year. Nadal could possibly face fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem in the semifinals.

Other interesting first-round matches on the men's side include an all-Canadian affair between No. 18 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, and eighth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas against Andrey Rublev, who routed Federer last week in the Western & Southern Open.

The other potential men's quarters: Federer against No. 7 Kei Nishikori, Nadal against No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev and Thiem against Tsitsipas.

Women's top seed Naomi Osaka, who beat Williams in last year's final for her first major title, could face a third-round match against Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old American who made it to the fourth round at Wimbledon and was given a wild card into the U.S. Open.

The potential women's quarterfinals: Osaka against No. 7 Kiki Bertens, Williams against No. 2 Ash Barty, No. 3 Karolina Pliskova against No. 5 Elina Svitolina and Halep against No. 6 Petra Kvitova.

Vera Zvonareva, the 2010 U.S. Open runner-up, and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova withdrew with injuries before the draw was conducted. With Amanda Anisimova's earlier withdrawal, the women's draw will feature three players who lose in qualifying.

Osaka, Halep advance while Barty beats Sharapova in Cincinnati

(8/14/19) World number one Naomi Osaka and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep battled to three-set triumphs Wednesday at the ATP and WTA Cincinnati Masters while top seed Ashleigh Barty ousted Maria Sharapova.

Reigning US and Australian Open champion Osaka needed more than two hours to outlast Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-2.

The Japanese star will next face a third-round match against Taiwan's Hsieh Su-Wei, who defeated American Jennifer Brady 7-6 (11/9) 6-3.

Osaka finally scored a win here at the US Open warm-up after losing in the first round a year ago.

"I was just trying to have fun," Osaka said. "In the second set I was taking myself too seriously and was down on myself.

"Now I just want to have fun and enjoy it. That's what I'm supposed to do."

Osaka advanced with eight aces, 24 winners and breaks on four of five chances against an opponent who was treated on her right knee several times.

Australia's Barty, 23, won the battle of former number one players in just over 90 minutes. The reigning Roland Garros champion beat five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova, who was Cincinnati champion in 2011, for the second time this season after a win at the Australian Open.

It was Barty's 40th victory of 2019 and she goes on to face Estonia's Anett Kontaveit, who beat Polish teenager Iga Swiatek 6-4, 7-6 (7/2).

Barty said she remained focused after last week's opening defeat in Toronto.

"It was certainly no panic sessions after last week. I knew I was a little bit underdone going into Toronto and certainly had no worries or concerns there," Barty said.

"I've been striking the ball really well over the last seven or eight days. I found my groove a little bit more. It took a little bit to adjust to conditions, but it was easy for me to swing out at the start."

Barty fired 18 winners, breaking Sharapova four times as the Russian made 31 unforced errors.

Fourth-seeded Halep took a late break in the penultimate game of the final set to beat Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 after two hours on court.

The Romanian has finished runner-up in Cincinnati three times, last reaching the final a year ago against Kiki Bertens.

In the next round, the 27-year-old, who retired injured from her Toronto quarter-final against Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova last week, will face American Madison Keys, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Russia's Daria Kasatkina.

"It was a very, very tough match," Halep said. "She played well, hitting the ball very strong. "Mentally, it was tough to return for me at the start after playing injured last week.

"But I didn't have pain, which is good. It took time to get a rhythm and then do something on court."

World number three Karolina Pliskova beat China's Wang Yafan 6-1, 6-3, while seventh seed Elina Svitolina, a semi-finalist four years ago, advanced past Belgian Elise Mertens 6-4, 6-1.

Sharapova slips by Riske in Cincy return: 'I took on the challenge and I found a way'

(8/13/19) Returning to Cincinnati for the first time in five years, Maria Sharapova was a winner on Monday night at the Western & Southern Open.

In a clash of wildcards under the lights, the former World No.1 and five-time Grand Slam champion defeated Alison Riske in the first round of the Western & Southern Open, 6-3, 7-6(4).

"I think I persevered through the second set. I think that was really important. I could have been in a very similar situation [as last week in Toronto, losing to Anett Kontaveit] in the third. I think she's a really tough opponent deep in the third sets," Sharapova said.

"I think she's had some of her best results this summer and she's dangerous, especially in early rounds when you haven't played a lot of matches and she has.

"I was excited about it, and I took on the challenge and I found a way."

A wildcard into this year's field, the 2011 Cincinnati champion rallied from a break down twice in the second set to see off the in-form Wimbledon quarterfinalist to set up a meeting with top seed and French Open champion Ashleigh Barty.

Sharapova nearly doubled Riske's total of winners in the match, and though she failed to convert a match point on serve at 6-5 in the second set, she ultimately beat the World No.37 for the fourth time in four career meetings.

"I tried as best I could. I tried a few different things. It just was a rough day for me, and I tried to get through it," Riske said in defeat.

"I didn't have much success obviously. She had a big part to do with that, and, yeah, we can only look forward to my next match and getting better for that.

"I think from Point 1, I have to be establishing myself. I need to be playing my game. I need to be asserting myself, and I can't let them be the one dictating play.

"I think that's what's gotten me this far, and unfortunately I wasn't able to do that today. That's what Maria did to me."

The Russian needed five set points on serve to secure the opening set, and needed four match points in the late stages of the second set, including three conseuctive opportunities in the tiebreak, before eventually sealing her first win since the Mallorca Open.

"I think the repetition that I'm putting in and feeling it, feeling a little bit better in terms of just speed and the strength in my arm," Sharapova continued.

"I think that's a big part of -- in general, the recovery from all that I have done with the shoulder is just to get that repetition and then really believe in my shoulder, you know, deep, an hour, two, an hour, three, if that's what it takes."

Currently ranked World No.97, Sharapova is back in Cincinnati for the first time since reaching the semifinals in 2014, and next faces a rematch against the Aussie, who defeated her in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January.

"It's not an easy match and really not an easy matchup for me. I think she does a lot of things well. She's a tricky opponent," Sharapova assessed.

"If I had played against her best game like when I was just coming up, like a [Justine] Henin or someone that sliced and diced and had a lot of variety, it was very tough for me.

"I feel like I have improved. Ee had a really tough one in Australia, and ever since then she's been on a roll. She's been dominating. She's one of the few players that have really dominated and has been impressive to see.

"I'm the one coming in with not a lot of match play, but I'll have to figure it out. If not, it's going to be too late."

Kontaveit downs Sharapova

(8/5/19) Anett Kontaveit spoiled Maria Sharapova's return from injury Monday, rallying to beat the five-time Grand Slam champion 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the WTA tournament in Toronto.

Sharapova, competing for the first time since retiring from her first-round match at Wimbledon, appeared to be on course for just a fourth match win since January when she went up a set and an early break on the 16th seed from Estonia.

Having forced the third set, Kontaveit gave herself a chance to serve for the match with a break of serve in an epic ninth game. Sharapova hung on through nine deuces before Kontaveit converted her third break chance in a game that lasted more than 15 minutes.

"I was just trying to take it point by point and not think about the score that much. It worked in the end," said Kontaveit, who converted her first match point in the following game when Sharapova sent a service return long.

While Kontaveit readies herself for a second round match against either Venus Williams or Carla Suarez Navarro -- who open play on Centre Court on Tuesday -- Sharapova will set her sights on next week's tournament in Cincinnati, where she has received a wild card just as she did in Toronto.

"I don't think this is the time to take a break," she said.

The 32-year-old has slipped to 82nd in the world rankings after another season marred by injury. She had missed more than four months in the wake of right shoulder surgery when she returned for the grass court season this year.

She was forced out of Wimbledon by a left forearm injury.

Sharapova said Monday's physical battle showed she'd made progress since Wimbledon.

"I put a lot of work in to get to this stage, so I think to finish off this match is good," she said. "Definitely not the result I would have liked, but overall feeling pretty good about it.

"I'm still building the confidence and my form and that's something that's just going to come with time and with match play," she added. "Unfortunately, I just haven't had that yet, so will just hopefully try to build on it."

Bouchard, Sharapova get wild-card entries into Rogers Cup

(8/2/19) Canadians Leylah Annie Fernandez and Eugenie Bouchard will join Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams as wild-card entries at the upcoming Rogers Cup women’s event in Toronto.

Tennis Canada announced the additions to the tournament’s main draw Wednesday.

Fernandez, from Laval, Que., will be making her Rogers Cup main draw debut after losing in the final round of qualifying in Montreal last year.

The 16-year-old is ranked 257th in the world but is coming off string of impressive results. She won the women’s junior title at the French Open last month and recently earned her first two professional titles, winning in both women’s singles and doubles competition at the Gatineau National Bank Challenger.

She also reached the singles final at last week’s Granby Challenger.

Bouchard, ranked 114th in the world, will be competing at the Rogers Cup for a 12th time, with her best result coming in 2016 when she reached the third round. The 25-year-old reached has made runs to the quarterfinals in two WTA tournaments since the start of the year but has struggled overall with a 6-11 record on the season.

The Canadians will join world no. 26 Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., in the main draw. After a strong start to the season that included a title at Indian Wells, the 19-year-old Andreescu has played just one match since late March due to a shoulder injury.

Sharapova and Williams, both formerly ranked No. 1 in the world, have a combined 12 Grand Slam titles. Williams is currently ranked 50th in the world, and Sharapova is 82nd.

Tennis Canada said Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino of Vancouver is missing the tournament with a nagging foot injury. Marino recently finished play at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, after losing her first-round women’s singles match.

Tennis Canada said a fifth wild-card spot will be filled at a later date.

Toronto’s Katherine Sebov, Montreal’s Francoise Abanda, Carol Zhao of Richmond Hill, Ont., and Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski were awarded spots in the qualifying competition.

The event will take place at the Aviva Centre in Toronto from Aug. 3 to 11.

Sharapova, Venus get wildcards for WTA Cincinnati event

(7/29/19) Former world number ones Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams were given wildcard entries into next month's WTA Cincinnati tournament, a key tuneup event for the US Open.

Each will compete in the main draw for the August 12-18 hardcourt event.

Sharapova is one of only six women to have completed a career Grand Slam. The 32-year-old Russian owns 36 WTA titles, including five Grand Slam crowns, and is ranked 81st in the world. Her most recent Grand Slam title came at the 2014 French Open.

She suffered a nagging shoulder injury and missed more than four months before returning on grass, but retired in the third set of her opening-round match at Wimbledon.

Sharapova won the 2011 Cincinnati title and lost in the 2014 semi-finals in her most recent appearance.

Williams, 39, has won seven Grand Slam titles among her 49 WTA crowns and has finished runner up in Grand Slams another nine times. The 51st-ranked US star won singles gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and has won three Olympic doubles titles with sister Serena.

It will be Venus's seventh Cincinnati start in her 25-year WTA career, her best run came in 2012 when she lost in the semi-finals.

Williams, a five-time Wimbledon singles champion, lost to US 15-year-old qualifier Coco Gauff in the first round at Wimbledon in her most recent start.

"Maria and Venus are two of the greatest champions in tennis history," tournament director Andre Silva said. "We look forward to both joining our world class field."

Serena among 13 Grand Slam champs in US Open women's field

(7/17/19) Serena Williams will try again for a record-equaling 24th major title as one of 13 Grand Slam women's champions who gained direct entry into the U.S. Open.

The top 98 men and 102 women based on this week's world rankings were automatically entered Wednesday into the field for the final major of the year, which will be played Aug. 26 through Sept. 8.

Williams lost to Simona Halep on Saturday in the Wimbledon final. She also lost last year in the final at Flushing Meadows to Naomi Osaka of Japan, leaving her one behind Margaret Court's total of 24 Grand Slam titles.

Along with Williams, Halep and Osaka, the rest of the Grand Slam champions in the women's field are No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, past U.S. Open champions Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, Angelique Kerber, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki, Garbine Muguruza and Jelena Ostapenko.

Both fields will be rounded out by 16 players from the U.S. Open qualifying tournament and eight wild cards.

Maria Sharapova vows to fight on despite retiring from first round Wimbledon match through injury

(7/2/19) A tearful Maria Sharapova promised that she would not take the “easy route” and step away from tennis after retiring from her Wimbledon first round match against Pauline Parmentier while trailing 5-0 in the deciding set.

The 2004 champion, who was not reached the Wimbledon second round since 2015, had served for the match at 5-3 in the second set but lost that on a tie-break, before calling a medical timeout and having her left wrist tendon taped by a trainer.

When asked whether should could have played one final game to complete the match, she said that she “probably couldn’t have got through that final set” at all and had been in significant pain since the second set.

“It's very rare that I withdraw from a match in the middle,” she said. “I got myself to a good enough place to be part of this event, not be out of the draw. I don't want to put anyone in that position. I'm here to play. Next time I come here, I want to feel great. I want to do what I'm meant to be doing at the level I believe I can.”

It had been the first time that Sharapova was not seeded at Wimbledon for 16 years and was only her second tournament since recovering from shoulder surgery following the Australian Open.

She has reached only one Grand Slam quarter-final since returning from her drug suspension but, even despite her subsequent injury problems, believes that she can again contend for the sport’s biggest prizes.

“I'm still proud that I'm here,” she said. “This is not the easy way. I think the easy way would be just for me to maybe do other things because I've set up the opportunities for myself. I've never taken the easy route. I've always worked, committed, focused. Like I said, these moments are hard, but I love what I do. I still have a lot of passion for it.”

Another former champion, Garbine Muguruza, was also eliminated yesterday after losing in straight sets to Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia.

No defending women’s champion has lost in the first round since Steffi Graf in 1994 but Angelique Kerber started the defence of her title yesterday with an impressive and comfortable victory over Tatjana Maria. The number one seed and new French Open champion Ashleigh Barty also won yesterday in straight sets.

Kerber too strong for Sharapova in Mallorca

(6/21/19) Top seed Angelique Kerber won the battle of current and former Wimbledon champions as she beat Maria Sharapova 6-2 6-3 in a heavyweight second-round clash at the Mallorca Open on Thursday.

Germany's Kerber, who will arrive at Wimbledon as reigning champion, proved too solid for Sharapova as her comeback from yet more shoulder problems was cut short.

Kerber's claycourt season was hampered by an ankle injury and she bowed out in the first round of the French Open.

But the 31-year-old left-hander looked sharp as she dominated Sharapova on the Santa Ponsa grass, setting up a quarter-final against either France's Caroline Garcia or Spanish wildcard Paula Badosa.

"It was a good match and I felt good from the first point on the court," Kerber, who now has four consecutive wins over Sharapova, told reporters.

"I trusted my game today and just wanted to be aggressive."

Sharapova, who returned to action this week ranked 85th after undergoing shoulder surgery in February, has spent a fortnight on the Mallorca lawns sharpening her game for her comeback but said her lack of match play showed.

"I made a few too many unforced errors," said the 32-year-old Russian, who won Wimbledon in 2004.

Despite having only two matches under her belt, Sharapova said it would not be "too smart for my shoulder" to add another warm-up tournament to her schedule ahead of Wimbledon.

"These two matches were very important, for my arm, putting pressure on my arm and seeing how it does and it's done pretty well so I will take that optimism to London," she said.

"Right now I have to take it one tournament at a time."

American teenager Amanda Anisimova, who reached the French Open semi-finals this month, eased past Alize Cornet 6-2 6-4.

She will next face third seed Belinda Bencic, who also sealed her place in the quarter-finals.

She was leading 5-7 6-3 3-1 when American opponent Shelby Rogers had to retire with an injury.

Sharapova has 'expectations' for return from five-month absence

(6/17/19) Maria Sharapova said on Sunday that she has "expectations" for herself ahead of her return from a five-month injury absence in Mallorca next week.

The five-time Grand Slam champion has not played since withdrawing from the St Petersburg event in January to have surgery on a long-standing shoulder injury.

Sharapova has struggled to find top form since coming back from a 15-month doping ban in 2017.

"When you go out in a tournament, anything can happen," the 32-year-old told

"You want to go out on the court and you want to show the type of tennis you think you can produce. I certainly have expectations for myself... And I enjoy getting better every day.

"The injuries are very frustrating... But then the next day, you start feeling better.

"The next day, you get better and you get a little more optimistic. A few months later, even though it's a long process, here you are and you're excited to compete again."

Sharapova will face Slovakia's Viktoria Kuzmova in the first round of the grass-court Wimbledon warm-up event, and could play three-time Grand Slam title winner Angelique Kerber in round two.

The Russian star beat former world number one Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open earlier this year, but has only reached one major quarter-final since being suspended for taking meldonium.

Sharapova thinks that, due to the injury, she was not enjoying her tennis six months ago.

"I've been through it before, 10 years ago with the shoulder. My shoulder has been troublesome for a majority of my career," she said.

"Before it was about pain management, but in January, I wasn't really enjoying playing because after every match I would think about what we would do to help my shoulder.

"I wasn't really thinking about being excited about the way I was playing, even though there were some great matches that I played in the start of the year."

Sharapova has slipped to 86th from 29th in the rankings during her lay-off.

"I took this time in order to come back to my first event and feel like I have a really good chance at it.

"Being away from the game for a few months is always challenging, because you miss a lot of things, but from a shoulder perspective, I'm giving it a really good chance here. Every match is going to be a really good test."

Sharapova to return to action in Mallorca

(6/10/19) Former world number one Maria Sharapova is set to return to the tour after accepting a wildcard entry at the Mallorca Open, four months after undergoing surgery on her right shoulder.

The Russian has not competed since she withdrew from a second-round match at the WTA St Petersburg Ladies Trophy in January and she skipped the entire claycourt season, including the French Open.

"I'm very happy... to announce that I'm going to accept the wild card to play the Mallorca Open," the 32-year-old said in a statement.

"I want to thank the tournament for the opportunity it gives me and all my incredible fans who have been supporting me in recent months."

The Mallorca Open, a warm-up grasscourt tournament for players before Wimbledon, begins on June 17 and the draw will also feature other former world number ones such as defending Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka.

Maria Sharapova out of French Open, citing right shoulder

(5/15/19) Two-time French Open champion Maria Sharapova has pulled out of the year's second Grand Slam tournament because of her injured right shoulder.

Sharapova announced her withdrawal on Instagram on Tuesday.

She wrote: ''Sometimes the right decisions aren't always the easiest ones.''

Sharapova said she has returned to practice and is ''slowly building the strength back'' in her shoulder.

The former No. 1 and owner of five major titles hasn't competed anywhere since late January, when she withdrew from a tournament in Russia after winning her opening match there. In February, she said she had a ''small procedure'' on her shoulder, which was painful since last year because of a fraying tendon and small labrum tear.

The French Open begins May 26 in Paris.

Sharapova (shoulder) withdraws from Rome

(5/3/19) Three-time champion Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from the upcoming Italian Open as she continues to recover from a right shoulder injury.

Rome organizers announced Wednesday that Sharapova's spot in the draw for the May 13-19 tournament will be taken by 45th-ranked Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, hasn't played since pulling out of a tournament in St. Petersburg, Russia, in late January after winning her first-round match. She won three matches at the Australian Open and is ranked 28th.

Sharapova said in February that she had undergone a "small procedure" on her right shoulder that would need a few weeks to heal. She added that she has struggled since midway through last year with shoulder pain caused by a fraying tendon and small labrum tear.

Missing Rome puts Sharapova in doubt for the French Open, which begins at the end of the month.

Sharapova won the Italian Open in 2011, 2012 and 2015.

Sharapova (shoulder) pulls out of Miami

(2/27/19) Maria Sharapova says she has undergone a "small procedure" on her right shoulder that will need a few weeks to heal, requiring her to pull out of next month's Miami Open.

Sharapova said she's struggled since last summer with shoulder pain caused by a fraying tendon and small labrum tear. She tried unsuccessfully to solve the problem with exercise.

"Although this has been a very long process, I am incredibly committed to getting back strong, and more importantly without the pain I was playing with at the beginning of this year," she wrote Wednesday on Instagram.

The five-time Grand Slam champion hasn't played since pulling out of a tournament in St. Petersburg, Russia, in late January after winning her first-round match. She won three matches at the Australian Open and is ranked 29th.

Sharapova pulls out of Indian Wells with shoulder injury

(2/13/19) Former world number one Maria Sharapova will miss next month's BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells due to a right shoulder injury, organizers said on Wednesday.

The shoulder problem had also forced the 31-year-old to withdraw from her second-round match in St Petersburg, Russia last month.

"We will miss Maria this year and hope to see her back at Indian Wells next year!" the tournament said on Twitter.

Sharapova's withdrawal allowed German Mona Barthel to secure a spot in the Indian Wells singles draw. The tournament will take place from March 4-17.

Shoulder pain forces Sharapova out of St Petersburg

(1/31/19) Maria Sharapova's ongoing right shoulder problems led her to pull out of the Saint Petersburg tournament, the organisers said on Wednesday.

"I tried to do everything possible to be able to be ready to compete this week, but my right shoulder continues to be an issue for me," Sharapova said to explain her decision.

"I will meet with my team of doctors over the next few days to evaluate the situation, and I look forward to returning to completion as soon as possible."

The 31-year-old has been struggling back to elite fitness since watching from the sidelines during her 15-month doping ban that ended in 2017.

The five-time major winner beat Daria Gavrilova of Australia 6-0, 6-4 in her debut in the tournament, but suffered with her shoulder injury afterwards.

"I have worked hard for months to put it (her shoulder) in order, but to no avail," she said after her match with Gavrilova.

"I still have plenty of work to do."

Sharapova's withdrawal opened the way into the last eight for third-seeded Russia's Daria Kasatkina, who enjoyed an opening round bye.

The former world number one Sharapova failed to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals earlier in January, but claimed she still believes she can increase her tally of five Slam titles.

Sharapova off to winning start at St Petersburg

(1/29/19) Russian star Maria Sharapova made a victorious debut at the WTA Saint Petersburg indoor tournament, beating Daria Gavrilova of Australia in straight sets on Monday.

The 31-year-old Sharapova prevailed 6-0, 6-4 in one hour 45 minutes to chalk up her third win in four head-to-head meetings with Russian-born Gavrilova.

The unseeded Sharapova was in command from the start on the hard court of Sibur Arena, breaking her rival's serve three times to take the opening set to love.

Gavrilova broke in the second, but Sharapova, who is ranked 29th in the world, replied by breaking twice and sealing her victory with a precise forehand drive.

"It was much harder than the scoreline indicates," Sharapova said. "It was a tough physical battle but I expected it as that's the way we've played all of our previous meetings."

In the last 16, five-time major winner Sharapova will meet third-seeded compatriot Daria Kasatkina, who enjoyed an opening-round bye.

"Daria has recently been in the top 10," said Sharapova. "Even though she lost early in Australia she is in good form and it will be hard to play against her. But I feel I'm ready."

Earlier on Monday, Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium saw off compatriot Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, 6-4 to set up a meeting with fourth-seeded Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.

Meanwhile, Vera Zvonareva, the 2010 Wimbledon and US Open finalist, beat fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-4 in a battle of former top 10 players, who both appeared in the main draw courtesy of wildcards.

"The match was really tough, but I expected that," Zvonareva said.

Maria Sharapova refuses to answer questions over meldonium use after crashing out of Australian Open

(1/20/19) Almost two years since Maria Sharapova returned from her doping ban, she has yet to regain her former authority on the court, and neither has she shown a hint of remorse.

Both of these points were driven home on Sunday. First Sharapova suffered a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 defeat at the hands of Australia’s local heroine Ashleigh Barty. Then she declined to answer a perfectly relevant question about the challenge of finding an alternative medication to meldonium, which was outlawed by WADA at the start of 2016.

When Sharapova first revealed the details of her positive test, she said that she had used the drug because of a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes. Coincidentally or not, her effectiveness in deciding sets has fallen since she stopped taking it, from a 76 per cent success rate beforehand to 52 per cent thereafter.

Asked whether it is difficult to deal with the physical demands of a grand slam without her former medication, Sharapova put her hand to her forehead, then pursed her lips and replied “Is there another question?”

Sharapova seems to like acting as if she were the victim. But there are plenty of other players in the locker-room who have expressed dissatisfaction about her acknowledged use of meldonium for ten years. Her notoriety may also help to explain why the Melbourne fans booed her on Sunday, as she returned from what they saw as a tactical bathroom break at the end of the second set.

This was another question that cropped up in the interview room, to her obvious disgust. “Did you think they [the fans] were a bit unfair to you? Did it affect you at all?”

“What do you want me to say to that question?” Sharapova replied. “I think that's a silly question to ask.”

Whatever the surrounding issues, the truth is that Sharapova was outplayed. And her opponent thus became the first Australian woman to reach the quarter-finals here since Jelena Dokic a decade ago. In Melbourne last night, the Barty party was well underway.

It is only three years since Barty came back to tennis after an Australian summer in which she represented the Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League. Striking 39 on her first appearance in Twenty20 cricket, she clearly handles off-spin as confidently as she does topspin.

Should Barty keep her Melbourne Park run going, she could find herself contesting the women’s final here at the same moment as her former team-mates are taking the field in the BBL final. Whatever happens, she is already front- and back-page news across Australia – a refreshingly wholesome standard-bearer to counteract the feuds and excuses of Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios.

The quality of Sunday’s match might not have been overwhelmingly high, in terms of pure ball-striking, but the drama was irresistible and the home fans were ecstatic when Barty managed to seal her victory with an ace down the ‘T’.

Barty is the No. 15 seed here, which on paper makes her twice as good as Sharapova’s No. 30. She has a versatile game too, with the volleys of a doubles champion (she won September’s US Open with CoCo Vandeweghe) and the best slice backhand in the business.

What she doesn’t have is much pedigree on the singles court at the majors. This will be her first visit to the quarter-finals of a slam, on her 18th attempt. The main reason for doubt was not that Sharapova might outplay her, but that Barty had shown signs of being gunshy against the biggest names in the past.

During last year’s French Open, she had backed off while holding a set-and-a- break lead against a still rusty Serena Williams. And were times here when history threatened to repeat.

Barty coughed up 22 unforced errors to lose the first set, and then let Sharapova fight back from 4-0 down in the decider to a nervy 4-3. To her credit, though, she steeled herself and served out the win on her fourth match point.

“The atmosphere was really unbelievable,” said Barty, who shares a partly indigenous ancestry with the seven-time slam champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley. “That first match point, my ears were ringing.”

Sportingly, Barty also declined to complain about Sharapova’s lengthy bathroom break. “There is nothing I can do. I just have to wait, and I know she was playing by the rule book.”

Ashleigh Barty comes from behind to beat Maria Sharapova at Australian Open

(1/20/19) It was like a party at Rod Laver Arena. A partisan crowd backed Ash Barty, booed Maria Sharapova and celebrated wildly when the first Australian woman in a decade reached the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.

Rod Laver was there watching, among the tennis greats. Prime Minister Scott Morrison in his green Aussie cap was cheering from the side of the court. It was in vogue for Aussies to be watching. Anna Wintour, too.

It took four match points and 2 hours, 22 minutes before Barty fended off 2008 champion Sharapova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, reaching the quarterfinals of a major for the first time. She’s the first Australian woman since Jelena Dokic to reach the last eight at the home Grand Slam tournament. No Aussie woman has won it in 41 years.

She’ll next play two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who dismantled 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova 6-2, 6-1 in 59 minutes to return to the Australian Open quarterfinals for the first time in seven years.

Danielle Collins upset three-time major winner Angelique Kerber 6-0, 6-2. She hadn’t won a match at a Grand Slam before coming to Australia — now she’s in the quarterfinals.

Sharapova won the first set but was struggling with her serve, and finished with 10 double-faults in the match. After dropping the second set — midway through Barty’s nine-game winning streak — Sharapova took an extended break in the locker room and was booed when she came back to court. That’s a rarity for the five-time Grand Slam winner in these parts.

A comeback was always on the cards, and Sharapova nearly delivered — recovering from 4-0 down in the deciding set, forcing Barty to serve it out, and saving three match points when she did.

Two seasons back from her break to pursue a career in cricket, Barty has become Australia’s best chance of producing a local champion since 1978.

Her immediate concern, though, is getting past Kvitova, who beat her in the final of the Sydney International last week.

Kvitova wanted no part of another loss to Anisimova, who beat her last year at Indian Wells and was the youngest American since Jennifer Capriati in 1993 to make it this far at Melbourne Park.

And so she went on the attack early, breaking in the first game. Kvitova was the model of consistency that the two other seeded players previously vanquished by Anisimova — No. 24 Lesia Tsurenko and No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka — were not.

She’s now on a nine-match winning streak, her four wins here come after a title run in Sydney, and is into the quarterfinals here for the first time since 2012.

"When I’m counting the years, it’s pretty long," Kvitova said. "But, you know, sometimes the waiting time is worth for it. I’m not complaining at all."

Kvitova broke Anisimova’s serve five times and never faced a break point. She got 86 per cent of her first serves into play, and won all but five of the points when she did.

"I was going out today as if I’d never played her, because I knew she was going to go out and play her best," Animisova said. "She came out with a really solid game plan against me. That kind of threw me off — it was different from my other matches."

Anisimova will go home with her first Grand Slam match wins to her credit, and a much higher profile. She had to log out of her social media accounts because it was distracting her between rounds.

"For sure it’s great that I got this far. I was hoping that I’d just win a first-round match, so getting this far means a lot to me," she said. "Hopefully I can build on a lot of things."

Among the later matches on Day 7, six-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer was taking on 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rafael Nadal was against Tomas Berdych.

Kvitova had to miss the Australian Open in 2017 because she was still overcoming injuries to her left hand that she sustained in a home invasion the previous month at her place in the Czech Republic. She lost in the first round here last year.

"You never know how the younger players are playing," Kvitova explained of her aggressive game plan. "They’re here with nothing to lose, they’re fearless.

"I started pretty well (and) the nerves went a little bit out for me," she added. "I’m really enjoying the time on court, and playing tennis."

Sharapova faces hostile home crowd as Federer, Nadal resume

(1/19/19) Maria Sharapova plays hometown hero Ashleigh Barty for a place in the Australian Open quarter-finals Sunday as the Russian eyes a first Grand Slam crown since 2014, with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also resuming their title hunt.

The five-time major winner claimed her biggest scalp since completing a drugs ban in 2017 when she rolled defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in round three.

It set her up with a tricky clash against in-form Barty who will have huge home support on Rod Laver Arena in a prime-time afternoon showdown.

Sharapova, who once famously summed up her attitude as "I'm not here to make friends", said she would not let the crowd affect her.

"I know it's going to be a tough crowd, but I go out there to perform and play tennis," said the Russian, who won at Melbourne Park in 2008 and hasn't lifted a Slam trophy since the 2014 French Open.

The diminutive Barty, 22, has been in sizzling form, winning six of seven matches this year to back up a title victory in Zhuhai late last year.

Whoever wins will have a last eight meeting with either eighth seed Petra Kvitova or surprise package Amanda Anisimova, who is just 17.

In the other women's last 16 match-ups, second seed and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber faces unseeded American Danielle Collins, while fifth seed Sloane Stephens takes on Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Federer and Nadal, with 37 Grand Slam titles between them, have so far been in fine fettle.

The Swiss great, the double defending champion who is targeting a record seventh crown at Melbourne Park, has a tough evening test against young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, seeded 14.

Federer played him in the recent mixed teams Hopman Cup, winning a closely contested singles 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), and said he was impressed.

"I think he played really well there. I actually did too. I thought it was really high quality tennis," he said.

"This is obviously a different type of match, it being best of five, it being a fourth round of a Slam."

The reward for the winner is a quarter-final against either Marin Cilic, who Federer beat in the final last year, or Roberto Bautista Agut, the man who ended Andy Murray's tournament and possibly his career.

Nadal also has a testing encounter with fellow veteran Tomas Berdych, who reached the semi-finals in Melbourne in 2014 and 2015 but is unseeded this year after an injury layoff.

Whoever comes through that clash will meet either 20th seed Grigor Dimitrov or unseeded American youngster Frances Tiafoe.

Defending champ gone: Sharapova ousts Wozniacki in Australia

(1/18/19) Maria Sharapova smacked a forehand winner — the sort she’s hit so many times, at so many key moments, over the years — to take control against defending champion Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open. Sharapova balled up her fists, shut her eyes, threw back her head and let out a yell.

She showed she’s ready to be a Grand Slam factor once again.

Sharapova grabbed the last four games to eliminate Wozniacki 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in nearly 2 1/2 hours Friday and reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park, building the statement-making victory with aggressive groundstrokes that gave her a 37-10 edge in total winners.

"I haven’t played many matches in the last year, especially against top players," Sharapova said. "And these are the kinds of matches I train for."

She cut her 2018 season short in September because of problems with her surgically repaired right shoulder.

Sharapova is seeded only 30th at Melbourne Park, where she won the 2008 title for one of her five Grand Slam trophies but hasn’t been past the quarterfinals since 2015.

The 31-year-old Russian missed the tournament in 2017 during a 15-month doping suspension that was triggered by a positive doping test during the previous year’s Australian Open.

Sharapova vs Wozniacki in key 3rd-round match at Aussie Open

(1/17/19) Caroline Wozniacki will have her most daunting challenge in defense of her Australian Open women's singles title when she takes on five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova in the third round at Melbourne Park on Friday.

The two haven't played since 2015 when Sharapova finished the year ranked fourth and Wozniacki was 17th. Now Wozniacki is seeded third here and Sharapova is 30th.

The match preceding that one on Rod Laver Arena will see defending men's singles champion Roger Federer take on American Fritz Taylor. Rafael Nadal opens night play on the same court against Australian Alex de Minaur, followed by 2016 champion Angelique Kerber's match against Australian wild-card entry Kimberly Birrell.

Morning rain showers meant the roofs at all three main show courts were closed and the start of play was delayed on outside courts.

Australian Open glance: Sharapova vs Wozniacki in 3rd round

(1/17/19) A quick look at the Australian Open:


The most anticipated match of the day is defending champion Caroline Wozniacki against 30th-seeded but five-time Grand Slam singles winner Maria Sharapova. They haven't played since 2015, back when Sharapova finished the year ranked fourth and Wozniacki was 17th.

''Relatively speaking, on paper, if you're looking at numbers, absolutely,'' Sharapova said when asked if she was the underdog. ''She's No. 3 in the world. I think that speaks for itself in terms of her game, her confidence, everything else.'' Elsewhere in the women's third round, 2016 champion Angelique Kerber plays Australian wild-card entry Kimberley Birrell and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova takes on Belinda Bencic. In men's play, second-seeded Rafael Nadal plays Australian upstart Alex de Minaur, who was born in Spain, defending champion Roger Federer plays Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe takes plays Andreas Seppi.


Chance of rain showers, high of 27 Celsius (81 Fahrenheit)


Rain delayed play for about 35 minutes on the main show courts; longer on outside courts. High temperature of 33 C (91 F).


Men's 2nd round: No. 1 Novak Djokovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-5, 6-4; No. 4 Alexander Zverev beat Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (5), 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (6), 6-1; Alexei Popyrin beat No. 7 Dominic Thiem 7-5, 6-4, 2-0, retired; No. 8 Kei Nishikori beat Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 7-6 (6), 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (7); No. 12 Fabio Fognini beat Leonardo Mayer 7-6 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (5); No. 16 Milos Raonic beat Stan Wawrinka 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6), 6-7 (11), 7-6 (5); Pierre-Hugues Herbert beat No. 24 Hyeon Chung 6-2, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Women's 2nd round: No. 1 Simona Halep beat Sofia Kenin 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4; No. 4 Naomi Osaka beat Tamara Zidansek 6-2, 6-4; No. 6 Elina Svitolina beat Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4, 6-1; No. 7 Karolina Pliskova beat Madison Brengle 4-6, 6-1, 6-0; No. 16 Serena Williams beat Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 6-2; Venus Williams beat Alize Cornet 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.


59 - number of aces by 39-year-old Karlovic in his loss to Nishikori


''That's almost my one year (of) aces'' - Nishikori.

Sharapova claims underdog status against Wozniacki

(1/17/19) Maria Sharapova has declared herself the underdog in her blockbuster third round clash with Australian Open defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, despite having five Grand Slam titles to the Dane's one.

Sharapova has struggled since returning from a drugs ban in 2017 and is seeded 30th at the tournament, while Wozniacki is third seed after claiming her maiden major at Melbourne Park last year.

But the 31-year-old Russian has been in sizzling form at this year's tournament, showing glimpses of her ruthless best in dropping only three games in the first two rounds.

Asked who was favourite for Friday's match, Sharapova conceded she was the underdog.

"Relatively speaking on paper, if you're looking at numbers, yeah, absolutely," she said.

"She's number three in the world. I mean, I think that speaks for itself in terms of her game, her confidence, everything else.

"She loves playing here, loves everything about this tournament. Certainly have a tough match ahead of me," she added.

Sharapova and Wozniacki have met 10 times, with the record 6-4 in the Russian's favour.

But their most recent clash was in 2015, when Sharapova was still at her peak and the Dane was yet to win her coveted maiden Slam, which she has credited with boosting her confidence.

"We haven't played each other in a long time. It's tough to tell," Sharapova said when asked to assess the match up.

There is no love lost between the pair.

Wozniacki questioned the way the WTA handled Sharapova's return from a 15-month ban for failing a drugs test and was furious when she was bumped from the show court in favour of the Russian at the 2017 US Open.

It prompted a withering response from Sharapova after Wozniacki's elimination: "I'm in the fourth round. I don't know where she is."

The Dane returned fire last year, saying she wanted to be an example for young players.

"I'm very passionate about drug use because I've spent so many years fighting fair," she said.

Federer, Nadal stay on track as Sharapova sets up Wozniacki showdown

(1/16/19) Roger Federer ground out a tough three-set win to make the Australian Open third round for an incredible 20th straight year Wednesday, with long-time rival Rafael Nadal also safely through in his drive towards an 18th Grand Slam title.

Women's defending champion Caroline Wozniacki also progressed to set up a mouth-watering clash next with in-form former world number one Maria Sharapova.

But it was curtains for South African Kevin Anderson, who slumped out to young American Frances Tiafoe and became the highest seed, at five, to be sent packing so far.

On an overcast day at Melbourne Park, second seed Angelique Kerber, the 2016 winner, and former US Open champion Sloane Stephens joined the big guns in round three, but the women's side also saw a top 10 player crash.

Ninth seed Kiki Bertens, who raced through the rankings last year after winning three titles, was whipped in three sets by Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Federer might be 37 but he's not showing his age, with British qualifier Dan Evans the latest to fall under his spell as he works towards a third successive Australian crown and 21st major victory.

He defeated Evans at Wimbledon last year with the loss of just eight games, but it was a much harder assignment this time, winning 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.

"I think if I could have pulled away earlier in the match it might have been easier," said the third seed. "I think he played very well, it was hard to pull away to his credit."

The Swiss star's Australian achievements so far put him on a par with other six-time winners Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson -- although the Australian great's victories all came before the Open era.

He next plays American Taylor Fritz.

If he goes on to win the tournament, he will become the first man ever to claim seven or more titles at two Grand Slams, having already won eight Wimbledons.

Nadal had an easier route to round three, outclassing local hope Matthew Ebden 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

The Spaniard is bidding for his own slice of history by becoming the first man in the Open era, and only the third in history along with Emerson and Rod Laver, to win each Grand Slam on two or more occasions.

"I played a solid match, I was happy with the way I served. I did a few things very well," said Nadal, who next plays Australian Alex de Minaur. "It is an honour to play here. Was a great atmosphere."

Anderson, beaten by Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final last year, was sent home by Tiafoe 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.

The fifth seed struggled with an elbow injury early in the clash and couldn't cope with the 20-year-old's power and finesse.

- Collision course -

Sixth seed Marin Cilic, who lost in the final to Federer last year, had no such dramas, grinding past American Mackenzie McDonald in four sets and next plays Spanish 26th seed Fernando Verdasco.

Dane Wozniacki, who is battling rheumatoid arthritis, steamrolled Sweden's Johanna Larsson 6-1, 6-3 as she bids to become the first woman to defend the title since Victoria Azarenka in 2013.

It set up a tough clash with five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, who blitzed past Sweden's Rebecca Peterson 6-2, 6-1. The Russian is in scintillating form and has dropped just three games in her opening two matches.

"I'm really happy with the way I performed," said Sharapova, adding that she was looking forward to the Wozniacki showdown.

"It's a tough third round but I have set up the challenge and I'm ready to go out there and take it."

Meanwhile, three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber dominated Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-2, 6-3 to stay on a collision course with Stephens in the quarter-finals.

Stephens, who endured a horror run at Melbourne Park since reaching the semi-final in 2013, exiting in the first round in 2015, 2016 and 2018, swatted aside former doubles partner Timea Babos 6-3, 6-1.

Sharapova pans male players for fighting women's equality

(1/14/19) Five-times Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has offered a dim view of male players' support for gender equality in tennis, saying Briton Andy Murray has been one of the few "exceptions" championing the cause.

A number of prominent women in the sport have paid tribute to Murray for taking a stand against sexism and pushing for equal prizemoney at tournaments after the Briton revealed on Friday that he might be forced to retire after the Australian Open due to a troublesome hip injury.

"Relatively speaking, I think they have been really tough, especially when it came to equality, as a general point," Russian Sharapova told reporters on Monday, after thrashing British qualifier Harriet Dart 6-0 6-0 to reach the second round. [nL8N1ZE092]

"I mean, sitting at a press conference in Wimbledon five, seven years ago, there was not a lot of warmth coming from that side or that perspective.

"That’s tough. I mean, I think there is definitely a few exceptions in the game, and I’m sure that (Murray's) been one of them.

"But from an effort point of view and what, you know, he’s able to do for the sport and for British tennis in a sense is iconic."

Women enjoy equal prizemoney at the Australian Open and the three other Grand Slams but are awarded less than men at other professional tournaments.

World number one Novak Djokovic caused outrage among women players when he said in 2016 that men should "maybe" earn more because their matches drew more spectators. He later apologized and backtracked on the comments.

Sharapova and three-times Grand Slam champion Murray once played mixed doubles together at the International Tennis Premier League in 2014 but have had few dealings since, particularly after the Russian was suspended for 15 months for taking banned drug meldonium in 2016.

Murray, the first top male player to take on a female coach in Amelie Mauresmo, questioned Sharapova's excuse that she was taking the drug for a heart condition and also criticized her racquet sponsor Head for standing by her after she was caught.

When reminded about her doubles history with the Scot, Sharapova's memory was foggy.

"Did we play mixed doubles?" she said.

"Oh, right. I was, like, the only mixed doubles I played with was like (Max) Mirnyi and I think I was 16 or 17 maybe," she said of the former Belarusian professional.

"What do I remember? Clearly it wasn't that memorable," she said with a smile.

"Because let me tell you, none of my doubles is memorable. It's like something we all should forget about. But I do have three titles. They actually mentioned it today in the introductions (on court).

"I was, like, 'OK, that's something we can skip. Like, let's not waste our time'."

Sharapova says passion undimmed as she makes point

(1/14/19) Maria Sharapova said her passion for tennis remained undimmed Monday after a serving a 6-0, 6-0 "double bagel" to Britain's Harriet Dart in the Australian Open first round Monday.

The veteran five-time Grand Slam winner, who has struggled with injury since returning from a doping ban in 2017, showed glimpses of her old ruthless self to dispatch Dart in just 63 minutes.

Dart left the court in tears but Sharapova was unapologetic when asked if she empathised with the young qualifier.

"There is no time for that, I'm sorry to say," she said. "(Not) when you're playing the first round of a Grand Slam."

The 31-year-old Russian arrived at Melbourne Park as the 30th seed but said she still had the desire to succeed at a tournament she has won once, in 2008, and made the final a further three times.

"There is nothing like going out and playing a match, especially in a Grand Slam, the feelings, the nerves, anticipation of a first round," she said.

Sharapova, who won her first major at just 17, added that she was feeling positive after "tough times" in her career and was not ready to make way for a new generation.

- 'Not immortal' -

"The youngsters are coming up and they'll eventually take our place but not just yet, we want a little more time," she said.

"I still really have the passion for this. I enjoy seeing the effort that I'm able to put in, and I think that hard work will always ultimately come to the surface."

The former world number one said Andy Murray's announcement that this year's tournament Down Under would be his last had underlined her determination to make the most of her time in the spotlight.

"You realise that you're not immortal, you're never going to play this forever, even though we've done it as long as we can think of," she said.

However, she conceded her thoughts at times had turned to life after tennis.

"At one point, life goes on and there's a lot of things to look forward to," she said.

"You have family, children, other business ventures. To me, that doesn't make me sad, that makes me excited."

Sharapova was far from perfect against Dart, committing three double faults and eight unforced errors, but was never threatened by the 22-year-old Londoner.

Dart made a hesitant start against her childhood idol.

Sharapova pounced on the Briton's weak second serve to repeatedly break her opponent, bringing up the first set bagel after 31 minutes.

The second set followed the same pattern, with Dart finally put out of her misery trying to save match point when she hit a return wide despite having an open court before her.

"Despite my opponent not having the best day, you still have to get the job done," Sharapova said.

Sharapova has served up double bagels at least five times on tour, including two in a row at the 2013 Australian Open against fellow Russian Olga Puchkova and Misaki Doi of Japan in the first two rounds of the tournament.

She was on the wrong side of the ledger when American Lindsay Davenport beat her 6-0, 6-0 at Indian Wells in 2005.

Sharapova leads parade of former Australian Open champions

(1/13/19) Maria Sharapova will be the first of five former champions playing on Rod Laver Arena on day one of the Australian Open.

Sharapova, who won her only Australian title 11 years ago, was playing Harriet Dart in the opening match on Monday. Rafael Nadal, who won his only Australian title in 2009, was set to play James Duckworth, followed by 2016 winner Angelique Kerber against Polona Hercog.

Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki was scheduled to play Alison Van Utyvanck to start the night session, followed by six-time Australian champion Roger Federer's match against Denis Istomin.

The night session on center court was set to begin with a ceremony honoring the man himself, Rod Laver, on the anniversary of his second Grand Slam of singles majors in 1969.

The temperature was 26 degrees Celsius (79 Fahrenheit) as players warmed up for the opening matches, and was expected to rise to 34C (93F) later in the day.

Harriet Dart to face Maria Sharapova after qualifying for Grand Slam for the first time

(1/12/19) Harriet Dart was handed a dream draw against Maria Sharapova after qualifying for a Grand Slam for the first time at the Australian Open.

The 22-year-old Londoner continued her fine start to the season by recovering from a set down to beat 10th seed Ivana Jorovic 1-6 6-3 6-1 while Dan Evans made it eight British players in the main singles draws with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Paolo Lorenzi.

Dart, who grew up idolising Sharapova, said: "I'm super excited and happy. I've been playing good tennis and I've put a lot of hard work and effort into all my training, my pre-season, so I knew my level was there, it was just about piecing it all together.

"She came out of the blocks early very good. I managed to stay in there and found a way to win. That's what I'm really proud of today."

Dart only made her slam debut as a wild card at Wimbledon last year - taking a set off Karolina Pliskova - but for Evans this is familiar territory.

The 28-year-old reached the fourth round on his last appearance at Melbourne Park in 2017 but will play in the main draw of a slam for the first time since his 12-month drugs ban.

He returned last April at a low-key Challenger in Glasgow and is already back in the world's top 200, with the carrot of a second-round clash against Roger Federer if he can get past fellow qualifier Tatsuma Ito.

Evans said: "I'm happy. Obviously I knew when I got banned I would have to start at not a great tournament and hopefully make my way back up. I'm nowhere near where I want to be yet so it's just another step in the right direction."

There was no repeat of the remarkable winner Evans played from behind his back in his second-round win over Jurij Rodionov that has already been hailed as the shot of the year.

He agreed it was the best shot of his career, but added: "It was obviously very lucky. I just stuck my racket out basically and it went in."

Djokovic, Halep top seeds for Aussie Open

(1/9/19) Top-ranked Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep, as expected, were given the No. 1 seedings on Thursday when the Australian Open announced its singles seedings list.

Defending champion Roger Federer is seeded No. 3 after Rafael Nadal, while women's defending singles champion Caroline Wozniacki, who beat Halep in last year's final at Melbourne Park, is No. 3 behind second-seeded and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.

Serena Williams, who won the Australian Open in 2017 while pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia, returns as the 16th-seeded player after missing last year's tournament.

Fifth-ranked Juan Martin del Potro will miss the Australian Open while he recovers from a fractured right kneecap.


Men's Singles=

1. Novak Djokovic, Serbia

2. Rafael Nadal, Spain

3. Roger Federer, Switzerland

4. Alexander Zverev, Germany

5. Kevin Anderson, South Africa

6. Marin Cilic, Croatia

7. Dominic Thiem, Austria

8. Kei Nishikori, Japan

9. John Isner, United States

10. Karen Khachanov, Russia

11. Borna Coric, Croatia

12. Fabio Fognini, Italy

13. Kyle Edmund, Britain

14. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Greece

15. Daniil Medvedev, Russia

16. Milos Raonic, Canada

17. Marco Cecchinato, Italy

18. Diego Schwartzman, Argentina

19. Nikoloz Basilashvili, Georgia

20. Grigor Dimitrov, Bulgaria

21. David Goffin, Belgium

22. Roberto Bautista Agut, Spain

23. Pablo Carreno Busta, Spain

24. Hyeon Chung, South Korea

25. Denis Shapovalov, Canada

26. Fernando Verdasco, Spain

27. Alex de Minaur, Australia

28. Lucas Pouille, France

29. Gilles Simon, France

30. Gael Monfils, France

31. Steve Johnson, United States

32. Philipp Kohlschreiber, Germany


Women's Singles=

1. Simona Halep, Romania

2. Angelique Kerber, Germany

3. Caroline Wozniacki, Denmark

4. Naomi Osaka, Japan

5. Sloane Stephens, United States

6. Elina Svitolina, Ukraine

7. Karolina Pliskova, Czech Republic

8. Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic

9. Kiki Bertens, Netherlands

10. Daria Kasatkina, Russia

11. Aryna Sabalenka, Belarus

12. Elise Mertens, Belgium

13. Anastasija Sevastova, Latvia

14. Julia Goerges, Germany

15. Ashleigh Barty, Australia

16. Serena Williams, United States

17. Madison Keys, United States

18. Garbine Muguruza, Spain

19. Caroline Garcia, France

20. Anett Kontaveit, Estonia

21. Wang Qiang, China

22. Jelana Ostapenko, Latvia

23. Carla Suárez Navarro, Spain

24. Lesia Tsurenko, Ukraine

25. Mihaela Buzarnescu, Romania

26. Dominika Cibulkova, Slovakia

27. Camila Giorgi, Italy

28. Hsieh Su-wei, Taiwan

29. Donna Vekic, Croatia

30. Maria Sharapova, Russia

31. Petra Martic, Croatia

32. Barbora Strycova, Czech Republic

Sharapova retires with injury, Sabalenka reaches semifinals

(1/5/19) Maria Sharapova retired from her match at the Shenzhen Open with an injury on Friday, giving top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka a spot in the tournament's semifinals.

The fifth-seeded Sharapova was trailing 6-1, 4-2 when she stopped because of a left thigh injury.

Sharapova received off-court medical treatment between the two sets.

''I think we both played well and then she got injured,'' Sabalenka said. ''Hopefully she will get well soon.''

Sabalenka will next face Wang Yafan, who beat qualifier Monica Niculescu 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-1.

''I will do my best in the season to get to the finals here,'' Sabalenka said. ''Last year I was so close, and so upset in the beginning when I did not make it, but this year I'm going to do my best, even better than last year.''

Alison Riske will face Vera Zvonareva in the other semifinal match.

Zvonareva defeated Veronika Kudermetova 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, while Riske beat Sorana Cirstea 7-5, 6-1.

Maria Sharapova advances to Shenzhen Open quarterfinals

(1/3/19) Maria Sharapova reached the quarterfinals of the Shenzhen Open on Wednesday after Chinese teenager Wang Xinyu retired in the second set with cramps.

Sharapova, who lost the first set 7-6 (4), was leading 5-2 in the second before the 17-year-old Wang was forced to quit.

“It’s not the way either of us wants to finish the match, win or lose,” Sharapova said. “I thought (Wang) was absolutely the dominant player in this match, and had all the opportunities to win it, even though I felt like I was finding my stride and getting a little bit closer to the line and being more aggressive.”

Wang, who won two Grand Slam doubles titles last year, received a wild card into the Shenzhen event.

“She has all the tools to play well, and I think she showcased that, and it’s obviously a very unfortunate way to end the match,” Sharapova said.

Sharapova will next face top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the quarterfinals. Sabalenka defeated Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia 6-3, 6-3.

Earlier, Wang Yafan reached the quarterfinals by beating Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. She will next face Monica Niculescu of Romania, who defeated Kristyna Pliskova of Czech Republic 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4.

Sharapova beats Bacsinszky in 1st round of Shenzhen Open

(12/31/18) Maria Sharapova returned to competitive tennis with a 6-2, 7-6 (3) win against Timea Bacsinszky in the first round of Shenzhen Open on Monday.

Sharapova cut short her campaign in September to recover from shoulder complaint. The fifth-seeded Russian, a semifinalist here last year, hit 23 winners against the unseeded Swiss player.

Bacsinszky broke Sharapova’s serve early in the first set and went 2-0 up in the second set, but the Swiss player was also erratic with 11 unforced errors and four double faults.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, next faces 17-year-old Wang Xinyu. She defeated Xun Fang Ying 7-6 (3), 6-4 in an all-Chinese match.

Also in the first round, Ivana Jorovic of Serbia upset second-seeded Caroline Garcia of France 6-4, 6-2 and Alison Riske of the United States defeated No. 3 Wang Qiang of China 6-3, 6-3.

Russian players Veronika Kudermetova and Ekaterina Alexandrova, and Ons Jabeur of Tunisia also reached the second round.

A-listers toast Billie Jean King at 75th birthday bash

(11/17/18) Billie Jean King celebrated her 75th birthday with her partner of 39 years Ilana Kloss at the New-York Historical Society, we hear.

The evening also served as a party for photo exhibit “Billie Jean King: The Road to 75” and as a fundraiser for the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative.

The soirée began with a montage of King’s career, then Emma Stone and Alan Cumming performed a duet, and Sara Bareilles and Cyndi Lauper also sang.

Guests included John McEnroe, Maria Sharapova, Robert Kraft, Tony Bennett and Holly Hunter.

Barack Obama and Elton John were part of a video tribute.

Maria Sharapova wants to play 2020 Tokyo Olympics, says tennis insider

(10/22/18) Maria Sharapova was expected to come at the Kremlin VTB Cup as a special guest as she had signed a deal with the tournament to compete there and also promote the event, but it won't happen. The president of the Russian tennis federation Shamil Tarpischev said: 'Maria is very unlikely to come.

She decided to start preparing for the next season. It will be important, she will have to become elegible to play Tokyo Olympics and Maria wants to play there.' The ATP and WTA tournaments at the Kremlin Cup take place in the same week.

Could it change in the future? 'We appreciate that this is the only men's and women's tournament combined in our country. We want to keep this format. We can split the men's and women's events if there is no space for the competition.' Moscow seems to have a stable place on the tennis Tour, unlike the Hopman Cup that could take place for the last time late this year from 29th of December to 5th of January as in 2020, the ATP World Team Cup is set to get re-introduced in the Calendar.

The Hopman Cup tournament director Paul Kilderry hopes that the event will continue to be played after 2019. 'We've got a contract through to 2022 with the government and our intent is to honour that contract,' Kilderry said.

'The world of tennis is more political at the moment than I've ever seen in my 30 years of being around it. The Davis Cup has changed - there's a lot of change at the moment. I don't think anyone has a real clear outlook on it.

We've just got to focus on this year's event, have a great event and our intent is to honour the contract we have.'

Sharapova cuts season short due to shoulder injury recovery

(9/19/18) Maria Sharapova says she will end her 2018 season early, withdrawing from the China Open in Beijing, the Tianjin Open, and the Kremlin Cup in Moscow due to her recovery from a right shoulder injury.

''I will miss competing at each of these tournaments, but it is important that I allow for proper rest and recovery in the upcoming weeks,'' Sharapova said in a statement on the WTA website.

Sharapova, ranked 24th in the world, was the defending champion at Tianjin.

Five-time major champion Sharapova lost in the first round at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the U.S. Open.

The WTA said Sharapova expects to start her 2019 season at the Shenzhen Open, which begins Dec. 31 in the southeast China city.

Maria Sharapova Shuts Down 2018 Season, Withdraws From Tournaments

(9/17/18) Maria Sharapova is shutting down her 2018 season and will withdraw from the three tournaments that she was set to compete in later this year, according to Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times.

Sharapova is looking to get some rest and will not participate in the China Open, Tianjin Open or VTB Kremlin Cup.

Sharapova reportedly plans to start her 2019 season at the Shenzen Open. That same event is where she started her 2018 season and put together one of her best tournament runs of the year as she reached the semifinals.

That was one of two times Sharapova advanced passed the quarterfinals in a tournament this year, but both runs ended in the semifinals.

Sharapova had a mixed bag of results at Grand Slams in 2018. She reached the quarterfinals at the French Open, the round of 16 at the U.S. Open, the round of 32 at the Australian Open and was bounced in the first round at Wimbledon.

Sharapova beaten by birthday girl Suarez Navarro in New York

(9/3/18) Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro celebrated her 30th birthday in style at the U.S. Open on Monday by beating Russian Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-3 to book her place in the quarter-finals.

Sharapova, the 2006 champion, had never lost a night session match in New York prior to her first Grand Slam meeting with Suarez Navarro.

"Thank you so much guys," Suarez Navarro said courtside after being wished happy birthday by the crowd. "It's the first time I've played this year at night. I'm very happy because I played a good match."

Five-times Grand Slam champion Sharapova paid the price for 38 unforced errors and won less than half of her first serve points while committing eight double faults.

"I didn't take care of the chances that I had," the Russian told reporters. "By chances, I mean the balls that were a little bit shorter.

"I hesitated to move forward. The balls where I did attack, I made unforced errors, especially on that inside-out forehand today."

With her most potent weapon not firing, Sharapova succumbed in one hour and 31 minutes under the floodlights at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, allowing 30th seed Suarez Navarro to record just her second career victory over the Russian in six attempts.

"Maria is a really good player. I mean, she's one of the best. I'm happy to beat her tonight," Suarez Navarro said.

"Sometimes on this court, it is easy to (get confused). Well, the crowd, the music, it's crazy. It's a really good show, but for the players sometimes it's tough, especially for me.

"I just tried to be focused. I tried to think about not too much things, just my work, my job. Today it worked."

The Spaniard will meet last year's runner up Madison Keys in the quarters and knows she will be the underdog against the 14th seeded American.

"It will be a really tough match. She is from the United States so the crowd will probably help her," Suarez Navarro added.

"I need to be aggressive ... try to be solid, run and fight. This is the way that I can play really good tennis. I have the character inside, sometimes I have to show more but, well, I'm working on that."

Working U.S. Open night shift fine with Sharapova

(9/1/18) Maria Sharapova continued to enjoy working the U.S. Open night shift with a 6-3 6-2 humbling of 10th seeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko on Saturday, improving her record to 22-0 under the Arthur Ashe Stadium floodlights.

There is no denying Sharapova's love for the big stage or the New York crowd's love for her and the five-time Grand Slam champion admitted that she feeds off the buzz.

"It's the energy you get, no doubt I feed off this energy," said Sharapova, who used that inspiration to carry her to victory at the 2006 U.S. Open.

"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.

"But I really turned that around. I think I thrive on that.

"I love the atmosphere. I love that they know how to cheer hard. I thrive on playing under the lights for some reason. I love that."

Even if the match was played at night there was no masking the poor quality of the opening set that featured four breaks of serve.

Ostapenko, who was the runaway leader in double faults at this year's final Grand Slam, had three alone in her opening service game but was not punished for her sloppiness with Sharapova unable to convert any of five break chances.

Eventually Sharapova would cash in on Ostapenko's generosity with the Latvian offering up 11 break opportunities and the Russian converting three - more than enough to take the first set.

"First game was a tricky game," said Ostapenko, who had 41 unforced errors to go along with six double faults. "But then I served two good serves on deuce. I won that game.

"Then everything went just not my way. I was making so many unforced errors.

"With that level, it was tough to beat Maria."

The nightmare serving continued into the second set with four consecutive breaks before Sharapova finally managed a hold for 3-2.

Ostapenko, however, would not manage to hold her serve at any point in the set and Sharapova broke the 2017 French Open champion twice more to clinch the victory.

The 31-year-old will meet Carla Suarez Navarro in the last 16 after the Spaniard upset French sixth seed Caroline Garcia 5-7 6-4 7-6(4).

Sharapova battles past Cirstea to set up Ostapenko clash

(8/31/18) Maria Sharapova battled past unseeded Romanian Sorana Cirstea 6-2 7-5 at the U.S. Open on Thursday to set up a third round clash with Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko.

Sharapova, who is seeded 22nd on her first appearance at Flushing Meadows since 2016, carved out a 3-0 first set lead despite making several mistakes early on and finished strongly with a dominant performance from the baseline.

Cirstea fought back with some hard hitting of her own, breaking the Sharapova serve in the first game of the second set and opening up a 4-2 lead before cracking under relentless pressure from the 2006 champion.

The Romanian sent a forehand into the net to offer Sharapova a break point, and allowed the Russian to level at 4-4 with a double fault.

Both players exchanged further breaks of serve until Sharapova finally held to go 6-5 up, before piling pressure on her opponent as she served to stay in the match.

Cirstea committed her fourth double fault to give the Russian two match points and conceded the contest with her 32nd unforced error, which Sharapova greeted with a fist-pumping celebration.

The former world number one, who beat Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder in the first round, has never lost a night session match at Flushing Meadows in 22 attempts.

"Well, numbers are all relative, it's really a nice accomplishment but it doesn't win me any more Grand Slams," Sharapova said courtside as the clock ticked past 1:00 a.m.

"There's something about this court, something about New York, there's something about this crowd. You have to be a little crazy to be here past midnight, so thank you."

Sharapova will resume her quest for a sixth Grand Slam crown against 10th seed Ostapenko, who beat American Taylor Townsend 4-6 6-3 6-4 earlier in the day.

"It only gets tougher from here," the Russian added. "Being seeded in the 20s means you're going to get grand slam winners in the third round, as I have. But I'm looking forward to it."

Sharapova edges past spirited Schnyder at Flushing Meadows

(8/29/18) Maria Sharapova overcame a shaky start and survived a spirited fightback from Patty Schnyder to defeat the Swiss veteran 6-2 7-6(6) in the first round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday.

Five-times Grand Slam champion Sharapova, who won at Flushing Meadows in 2006, struggled with her serve at times in the opening set but Schnyder failed to take full advantage.

The Swiss retired from tennis after being beaten in the first round of the French Open in 2011 but returned in 2015 and last week became the oldest woman qualifier to reach the main draw of a Grand Slam at the age of 39 years and eight months.

She was handed an early break by Sharapova after the Russian made three double faults in her opening service game, but double faulted on break point on her own serve to hand the initiative straight back.

With the first four service games all broken, Sharapova held for the first time to take a 3-2 lead and, having got her nose in front, found both her rhythm and serve and began dictating play from the baseline.

The 22nd seed wrapped up the first set in 40 minutes and was leading 5-1 in the second before Schnyder embarked on a remarkable rally.

Schnyder started to take the pace off the ball to gain a greater degree of control and the approach paid dividends as Sharapova's error count mounted.

The Russian, who hit 22 winners but made 46 unforced errors, needed four match points to end Schnyder's resistance as the match went to a tiebreak, eventually sealing victory with a powerful forehand winner.

"I started making a lot of mistakes," Sharapova said. "She became really consistent. I think I just really wanted to finish it off and was just giving her a lot of free looks.

"I still have a lot of things to work on."

Sharapova next faces Romanian Sorana Cirstea, who she expects to come hard and fast at her.

"She's someone that plays extremely aggressive," Sharapova said. "Sometimes you don't really know what you're going to get in a matchup like that.

"But for me I think just stepping away from who I'm playing, zoning in on what I need to improve on, that will be my focus. There's quite a few things."

Serena tops Forbes list of highest paid female athletes

(8/22/18) Serena Williams was the highest paid female athlete for a third consecutive year in 2018, according to an annual list published by Forbes on Tuesday that was dominated by tennis players.

Williams, who returned to competition in March after giving birth last September, earned $62,000 in winnings over the past year but received $18.1 million from an endorsement portfolio unmatched among women in sports, Forbes said.

Williams, who will try to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam titles when she competes at the Aug. 27-Sept. 9 U.S. Open in New York, earned twice as much off the court as any other female athlete, according to Forbes.

Dane Caroline Wozniacki, who captured her maiden grand slam title at this year's Australian Open, was second on the list with combined earnings of ($13 million) while reigning U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens ($11.2 million) was third.

Spaniard Garbine Muguruza ($11 million) and Russian Maria Sharapova ($10.5 million) rounded out the top five.

Indian badminton player P.V. Sindhu ($8.5 million) and retired race car driver Danica Patrick ($7.5 million) were the only non-tennis players to crack the top 10, filling up the seventh and ninth spots, respectively.

In June, Forbes issued a ranking of the world's 100 highest-paid athletes and it did not feature a woman.

Serena Williams, who was the only woman on the list the previous year, dropped out of the chart while taking time off to have a baby.

Sharapova cruises past Kasatkina at Rogers Cup

(8/8/18) Maria Sharapova continued her bid to climb back to the top of women’s tennis with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over 12th-seeded Daria Kasatkina in the second round of the women’s Rogers Cup on Wednesday.

Sharapova, the former world No. 1 who was ranked 149th a year ago after serving a 15-month doping ban, posted a second one-sided win in a row after a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva in the opening round.

The Russian will face fifth-seeded Caroline Garcia of France in the third round. Sharapova is 4-1 in previous meetings, but Garcia won their last one this year in Stuttgart.

Unseeded Kiki Bertens is ranked 18th in the world so it wasn’t much of an upset when she beat ninth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-2, 6-2 to advance to a third-round encounter with eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova.

Alize Cornet of France defeated off-form Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-1 to advance to a third round meeting with 15th-seeded Ashleigh Barty of Australia, who downed Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck 7-6 (7) 6-2.

Kerber leads her all-time series with Cornet 3-2, but the Frenchwoman has won both of their meetings on hard courts. Cornet’s last win over a player ranked in the top-5 in the world was also a hard court win over Kerber in Beijing in 2017.

Kerber led the WTA Tour in hard court wins this year with 21, but she wilted in the sticky heat at IGA Stadium in her first match since her Wimbledon triumph.

"It is one match, I know I have to learn from it," said fourth-seeded Kerber. "I took a few weeks off after Wimbledon so I knew I had to come here, play a lot of matches, and also to get used to the hard courts again.

"Of course, it was not the plan to play just one match but, at the end, this is tennis. Every tournament starts from zero. Now I’ll try to get ready for the next tournament."

The top eight seeds got a bye to the second round.

Qualifier Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, a former top-10 player, got past Lesia Tsurenko 6-4, 3-2 when her Ukrainian opponent retired in the second set.

Francoise Abanda of Montreal, the last Canadian left in the singles draw, is to face American Sloane Stevens later Wednesday on what is forecast to be a rainy day.

Maria Sharapova advances at Rogers Cup

(8/7/18) Maria Sharapova advanced to the second round of the Rogers Cup with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria on Tuesday.

Play resumed under the afternoon sun with Sharapova leading 4-1 in the first set after heavy rain and lightning forced organizers to suspend the match late Monday following a three-hour rain delay.

Sharapova, making her first Rogers Cup appearance since 2014, picked up where she left off Monday. She won six straight games after the restart and needed only 36 minutes to win the second set.

The 31-year-old had three aces and only committed two double faults to her opponent's 11.

''Would have loved to finish last night to get a break today, but that's not how things work,'' Sharapova said. ''You have to adjust. I think I did a good job of finishing the job today.''

The Russian is 5-0 all time against the 229th-ranked Karatantcheva, who was playing in her first WTA main draw in more than a year.

Sharapova, ranked 22nd in the world, will face Daria Kasatkina of Russia (No. 12) or Maria Sakkari of Greece (No. 31) in the second round.

Canada's Eugenie Bouchard is out after a 6-2, 6-4 first-round loss to Elise Mertens of Belgium.

The 129th-ranked Bouchard lost the match in 1 hour, 34 minutes in front of her hometown fans as she dropped to 4-11 all time at the Rogers Cup.

The Westmount, Quebec, native started the match poorly. She was broken three times and dropped the first five games of the first set.

The 24-year-old showed signs of life though, winning back-to-back games in the first set before losing 6-2. She started the second set by winning her first three games.

But Bouchard's service game let her down the entire match, and it allowed Mertens to claw her way back into the second set.

Bouchard was broken twice in the second, for a total of five times in the match, as Mertens won the next five games en route to the victory.

Bouchard connected on just 54 percent of her first serves and won 56 percent of her first service points.

The 15th-ranked Mertens, who is making her Rogers Cup debut, will now face either Shuai Zhang of China (No. 32) or qualifier Barbora Krejcikova (No. 232) of the Czech Republic in the second round.

Bouchard has not beaten a top-20 player since defeating Angelique Kerber at the Madrid Open in May 2017.

Earlier Tuesday, Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko was eliminated after a 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-2 loss to Britain's Johanna Konta.

Ostapenko, the 11th seed in Montreal, committed 10 double faults while struggling with her serve as she was eliminated in the first round at the Rogers Cup for the third straight year.

Konta had eight aces while committing just three double faults.

''Because of the back and forth in that first set, after that what I did well was I settled down,'' said Konta, the former world No. 4. ''I played myself into the match and tried to be as tough as possible.

''She has such a big game, so many big shots, sometimes you are spectator out there. When I had the opportunity to do the most I could, stay strong, I think I built up enough momentum. That's why I was able to keep pushing through in the second and third.''

In other early matches, Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands made quick work of Carol Zhao of Canada, winning 6-1, 6-2 while world No. 8 Petra Kvitova outlasted Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-3, 6-4.

Belgium's Alison Van Uytvanck cruised past Russian qualifier Sofya Zhuk 6-1, 6-2 and Sorana Cirstea beat Monica Niculescu 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in an all-Romanian matchup.

The 10th seed Julia Goerges of Germany came from a set down to beat qualifier Lucie Safarova 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Garbine Muguruza, the tournament's eighth seed, withdrew with an arm injury. Puerto Rico's Monica Puig took her spot in the main draw.

Serena, Sharapova and Murray among unseeded stars for Cincy

(8/6/18) Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Andy Murray were among the stars who went unseeded Monday for next week's WTA and ATP Cincinnati Masters event.

Novak Djokovic and Venus Williams also were among the Grand Slam champions who missed out on a first-round bye at the last major tuneup event for the US Open, which starts August 27 in New York.

Top seeds for the Cincinnati event followed the latest ATP and WTA rankings with world number ones Rafael Nadal of Spain and Simona Halep of Romania leading the 16 seeds in each 56-player field, the top eight of whom receive first-round byes.

Serena Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion needing one more major victory to match Margaret Court's all-time record, will try to extend her streak of years with a major title to seven by winning the US Open.

Two-time Cincinnati champion Serena lost the Wimbledon final to Angelique Kerber last month, the 36-year-old American's first Grand Slam final since an extended absence after giving birth to a baby daughter last September.

Russia's Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, reached the French Open quarter-finals but was a first-round loser at Wimbledon.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Djokovic, a 13-time Grand Slam champion, was named the 10th seed while Britain's Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion, will be unseeded in only his fourth start since an 11-month absence with a right hip injury.

Djokovic has reached the Cincinnati final five times without ever taking home the winner's trophy.

Behind 17-time Grand Slam winner Nadal in the men's seedings are 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, Germany's Alexander Zverev fresh off defending a title in Washington, Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro and defending Cincinnati champion Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.

On the women's side after Halep were Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki, American Sloane Stephens, Kerber, Ukraine's Elina Svitolina, France's Caroline Garcia and defending champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

Maria Sharapova's Butt Gets Pampered by Boyfriend's Face

(7/23/18) (Photo) Maria Sharapova's professional season might be winding down, but her boyfriend is kicking off ass-eatin' season ... in a big way!

The Russian tennis star was lounging in a bikini Sunday in Positano, alongside her millionaire bf, Alexander Gilkes, who decided to order lunch OFF-menu. For some reason, Alex got a face full of Maria's butt.

He was also pretty handsy with the booty -- so, there's little question to what he sees in Maria. Check out the pics, though ... she was stuck on her phone the whole time he was going to work back there.

We'd say she's gonna give the guy a complex, but looks like it's all love, baby.

Maria Sharapova pulls out of San Jose

(7/20/18) ( Maria Sharapova made a major announcement on Tuesday. The Russian tennis player won't compete in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic that takes place at San Josè State University from July 30 to August 5 2018.

The former world No. 1 announced her withdrawal, which is the fourth one this year after Dubai, Miami and Birmingham. 'I am really sorry to have to miss the event in San Jose this year', Sharapova said through a statement. 'I have heard amazing things and I know all the girls are excited to come to play. Unfortunately, I have been forced to make some very tough decisions at this point in my career when it comes to my tournament schedule. ?I need to take care of my body and make sure I stay healthy. I look forward to coming to play next year.'

Organizers can still be happy as Venus Williams took a wild card, joining her sister Serena, Victoria Azarenka and Madison Keys among the others. The tournament director Vickie Gunnarsson shared happiness: 'We are very excited to have Venus join our player field. She and Serena are tennis icons and tremendous ambassadors for the sport. Having them both competing at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic is truly special.'

Sharapova lost to her compatriot Vitalia Diatchenko in the opening round match at Wimbledon. She had a busy clay-court season playing four tournaments.

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

(7/4/18) Maria Sharapova insists she is not finished as a Grand Slam force despite her worst ever performance at Wimbledon, a tournament which should be her perfect showcase.

The 31-year-old gave up a set and a 5-2 lead to lose in the first round on Tuesday to fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko, an injury-plagued qualifier ranked a lowly 132 in the world.

Diatchenko, who needed treatment on her back on three occasions, celebrated an unlikely 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 triumph after more than three hours on Court Two.

The match ended in twilight, a fitting metaphor for Sharapova who slipped to her first ever opening round defeat at the All England Club where she first burst upon the scene in 2003.

One year later, as a 17-year-old, she stunned Serena Williams to capture the Wimbledon title, the first of her five majors.

However, she has been back to the Wimbledon final only once since 2004, losing to Petra Kvitova in 2011.

Before Diatchenko, there had already been some embarrassing howlers -- in 2008, losing to Alla Kudryatseva, ranked 154, then to world number 45 Gisela Dulko in 2009 and to Michelle Larcher de Brito, a 131st-ranked Portuguese qualifier in 2013.

This year was Sharapova's first appearance at Wimbledon since 2015 having been sidelined by a doping ban in 2016 and injury last year.

Since her return from suspension, her Slam record stands at a last-16 run at the US Open, third round in Australia and a quarter-final place at Roland Garros.

Steady, not spectacular but Sharapova insists there are positives.

"I have to take away the things that didn't work well for me and get back and work through those, look for my next opportunities," said Sharapova whose fate was sealed against Diatchenko when she served up her 11th double fault of the match.

- Not pleasant -

Tuesday's loss was her first opening round exit at a Slam since Australia in 2010.

Before that, her only other first-up losses came in her maiden season in Melbourne and Paris in 2003.

Sharapova, who decided not to play the Birmingham grass court warm-up event, admitted that the passing years pose a new challenge.

"I always find the transition from clay to grass has been a little bit tougher for me as I've gotten older," she admitted.

"That's just a matter of training, getting through the soreness in the first week or so. There's no perfect formula."

Since her return to the tour in April 2017, Sharapova has added just one more title to her career tally -- at the low-key season-ender in Tianjin.

She also suffered a mini-slump this year, losing three first round matches in succession at Doha, Indian Wells and Stuttgart.

She now stands at 15-9 on the season.

"At this moment, my competitive desire is not great," she said in the aftermath of her loss to Diatchenko.

"It's always tough to assess motivation after a first-round loss. There's no doubt that when I will -- I don't shy away from mistakes and errors, looking back at film, learning from what went wrong.

"It's not always pleasant moments, but sometimes those are the ones you need to get better."

Sharapova, Kvitova beaten at Wimbledon of upsets

(7/3/18) These are not the sorts of matches Maria Sharapova is supposed to lose, letting lead after lead slip away Tuesday against a qualifier ranked 132nd — and in the first round of Wimbledon, no less.

Then again, at this edition of The Championships, as they prefer to call the event around here, the initial 48 hours have provided more surprising exits than anyone’s accustomed to: A total of seven top-10 men’s and women’s seeds departed in the opening round, more than in any previous year in the professional era’s half-century.

That includes two-time champion Petra Kvitova, who was sent home by Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 a few hours before 2004 titlist Sharapova folded against Vitalia Diatchenko in a 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-4 loss she seemingly controlled time and again before dropping the last three games.

"Sometimes," Sharapova said, "you put yourself in a better, or winning, position, and you don’t finish."

A 15-month doping ban kept her out of the grass-court Grand Slam tournament in 2016, and an injury sidelined her a year ago. It looked as if it would be a pleasant, straightforward return when she went ahead by a set and a break at 5-2.

Sharapova then served for the match at 5-3, but faltered. After being pushed to a third set, Sharapova went up a break at 2-1. That edge disappeared right away. She went up another break at 4-3. That advantage, too, was given right back. Sharapova’s collapse eventually ended, perhaps fittingly, with her 11th double-fault.

How unlikely was this result?

Since losing the first two Grand Slam matches of her career as a teenager, Sharapova was 49-1 in openers at majors, 13-0 at Wimbledon.

She’s a former No. 1, now seeded 24th, who owns five Grand Slam titles.

And Diatchenko?

Repeatedly sidetracked by injuries of one sort or another — "I think I will write a book after I finish playing," Diatchenko joked about her health history, even on a day she was visited by a trainer for groin and lower back issues — the 27-year-old Russian came in 0-2 at Wimbledon and 8-25 overall in main-draw matches at all tour-level events.

"Everybody," Diatchenko said afterward, "expects me to lose the match."

But she didn’t, in part because Sharapova failed to win it.

That continued the kind of topsy-turvy tournament it’s been so far, of a piece with the sunnier-than-normal weather. The temperature has been in the low 80s (high 20s Celsius), there’s been nary a cloud, and some players have noticed the grass offering more unpredictable bounces.

There are other theories for what’s been causing these unprecedented results. On Tuesday, No. 8 Kvitova and No. 6 Caroline Garcia lost, a day after No. 4 Sloane Stephens, the reigning U.S. Open champion, and No. 5 Elina Svitolina did. 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.

"I really believe it: Here on grass, you don’t know what to expect," said No. 1 Simona Halep, who joined fellow French Open champion Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as a straight-set winner on Day 2. "Some players can play (their) best tennis. The top players can play a little bit less. You never know. … Every match can go either way."

Kvitova spoke about being beset by nerves and the idea that the pressure to live up to expectations at a Grand Slam tournament can be most burdensome early in a tournament.

"I don’t think it’s just me," she said. "I think it’s all of the seeded players."

She was able to smile and laugh through her news conference, though, saying that she feels as if her return from a knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic in December 2016 constitutes her "biggest" win.

Sharapova, meanwhile, said that the quick switch from clay to grass can make things tough on some players. She’s found that transition more difficult as she’s gotten older.

Maybe that’s true.

Still, it was shocking to see someone considered so gritty, so successful at figuring out how to win, struggle when so close to victory. Especially against such an inexperienced opponent.

Did she get struck by a case of the jitters?

"That’s part of the game, is to feel moments of tension, to feel there’s something on the line. That’s just human. No matter how many times you’ve done it, no matter what court you’re playing on — Centre Court, back court — just the moment, the crowd — Wimbledon, another tournament — you always want to do your best," Sharapova said. "Of course you feel it. But I love that feeling. That’s one of the reasons I play. I definitely, maybe, wasn’t smart enough, didn’t play the right way in the crucial moments."

Who are you? Guide to rivals of Wimbledon top seeds

(6/29/18) Who are you? AFP Sport looks at the men and women trying to upset the stars at Wimbledon in the first round:

Roger Federer v Dusan Lajovic

Federer leads series 1-0

-- World number 57 Lajovic gave Alexander Zverev a huge fright at the French Open by taking a two sets to one lead before folding in five. Best run at the majors was a last-16 spot at Roland Garros four years ago where it took Rafael Nadal to stop him. The Serb was beaten by Federer in straight sets in the second round of Wimbledon in 2017.

Rafael Nadal v Dudi Sela

Nadal leads series 2-0

-- Ranked 129, the 33-year-old Sela has just three wins on the main tour in 2018 but made the last-16 at Wimbledon in 2009 where he was knocked out by Novak Djokovic. Also made the third round last year where injury forced him to quit against Grigor Dimitrov. At 5ft 9ins (1.75m), the Israeli jokes that "if I had 10 more centimetres I'd have success at tennis".

Novak Djokovic v Tennys Sandgren

First meeting

-- World number 56 Sandgren of the United States stunned the sport by making the Australian Open quarter-finals in January knocking out Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem. He also caused a storm for his alleged support of right-wing groups, something the devout Christian denied. "You seek to put people in these little boxes so that you can order the world in your already assumed preconceived ideas. You strip away any individuality for the sake of demonising by way of the collective," the 26-year-old told reporters in response. Made the final in Houston this year but will be making his Wimbledon debut.

Andy Murray v Benoit Paire

Murray leads 2-0

-- Explosive and colourful, the 29-year-old Paire was a point away from beating Federer in the Halle second round this month. Famously kicked out of the 2016 Rio Olympics for breaking team rules while, two years earlier, the Frenchman said he hated Wimbledon. "The atmosphere displeases me greatly," he said. Despite that, still made the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2017 where he lost to Murray.

Serena Williams v Arantxa Rus

First meeting

-- Dutch world 107 Rus made the third round at Wimbledon in 2012 but failed to get out of qualifying on her last three visits. Made the quarter-finals in Auckland and Istanbul this year, she is a former Australian Open junior champion.

Simona Halep v Kurumi Nara

Halep leads series 1-0

-- Nara, standing at just 5ft 1in (1.55m) is ranked 101 but the Japanese has a Grand Slam pedigree -- in 2017, she defeated two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round of the US Open. Made the third round on her Wimbledon debut in 2010 after coming through qualifying. Never one to do things the easy way, in 2016 Nara tried to fly to Charleston, South Carolina for a tournament, only to land at Charleston, West Virginia -- 640km to the north.

Garbine Muguruza v Naomi Broady

Muguruza leads 1-0

-- British wild card Broady, ranked 138, has just one win on the WTA Tour this year, playing mostly on the ITF circuit. It was on that second-level that Broady faced 2017 Wimbledon champion Muguruza in their only meeting at Wrexham in Wales in 2011. Has played six times in the Wimbledon main draw with just one victory in 2014 before a second round exit at the hands of Caroline Wozniacki.

Maria Sharapova v Vitalia Diatchenko

Sharapova leads 1-0

-- Ranked at 132, the 27-year-old Diatchenko has been plagued by injuries. This year, the Russian qualified for Wimbledon and returned to the main draw of a major for the first time since the 2016 US Open. Has never won a main draw match at Wimbledon.

Wimbledon 2018: Tim Henman's 10 players to watch

(6/29/18) John Isner
Age: 33
Wimbledon best: Third round (2014, 2015, 2016)
Nationality: American
Wimbledon seeding: No 9
Titles: 13 tour titles, 0 slams

The players that always used to frighten me were the big servers so someone like John Isner if he gets on a roll with his serve, can be a nightmare to play against.

He’s really got one of the great serves out there, and at 6ft 10in can be so dangerous.

Kevin Anderson
Age: 32
Wimbledon best: Fourth round (2014, 2015, 2017)
Nationality: South African
Wimbledon seeding: No 8
Titles: 4 tour titles, 0 slams

He’s a guy who’s made huge improvements, and people don’t like playing him. I remember he was two sets to love up against Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon a few years ago and very nearly got the win there.

Grass is such a tough surface to defend on, and when he’s serving well - standing at 6ft 8in - getting anything on the return against him is hard.

Milos Raonic
Age: 27
Wimbledon best: Final (2016)
Nationality: Canadian
Wimbledon seeding: No 13
Titles: 8 tour titles, 0 slams

Raonic has been to a Wimbledon final before, and yes his ranking has dropped but it’ll be interesting to see where he comes out in the draw.

He’s been a top-five player, has a solid all-game and is a better volleyer than a lot of the other guys.

Nick Kyrgios
Age: 23
Wimbledon best: Quarter-final (2014)
Nationality: Australian
Wimbledon seeding: No 15
Titles: 4 tour titles, 0 slams

He’s the one I always look out for and always hope he could make the big breakthrough because he probably has more natural tennis ability than anyone outside the 'Big Four'.

But we also appreciate that tennis has three vital elements - physical, technical and mental. And the physical and mental aspects are where he lets himself down. Hopefully he can become more consistent in those areas and then we’ll see better results.

He has an unbelievable serve, a good baseline game, he can change direction on the ball exceptionally well. He has good feel for the ball but if you’re not mentally engaged and physically fit and strong then you’re going to get found out.

Denis Shapovalov
Age: 19
Wimbledon best: First round (2017)
Nationality: Canadian
Wimbledon seeding: No 26
Titles: 0 tour titles, 0 slams

No doubt he’s a huge star of the future. He’s had some big results already and hopefully that's building up to some bigger results in the grand slams.

It would be great to see him have a run at Wimbledon. He’s got great variation, especially with that leftie one-handed backhand. He can change the pace, and he’s a real shot-maker. If he stays fit and healthy he’ll be around for a long time to come.

Ashleigh Barty
Age: 22
Wimbledon best: First round (2012 and 2017)
Nationality: Australian
Wimbledon seeding: No 17
Titles: 2 tour titles, 0 slams

A player with a great slice and she serves well, definitely a contender - especially after winning the grass-court event in Nottingham earlier this month.

She's also helped by the fact she has one of the best volley games of any of the leading women. Her ranking just keeps on rising so no reason she can’t have a good run.

CoCo Vandeweghe
Age: 26
Wimbledon best: Quarter-final (2015 and 2017)
Nationality: American
Wimbledon seeding: No 16
Titles: 2 tour titles, 0 slams

Pat Cash is working with her and she’s certainly got the explosive power and the attacking mindset to be a threat on grass.

She’s twice been a Wimbledon quarter-finalist - including last year - and if she can be completely focused then she has a chance.

Venus Williams
Age: 38
Wimbledon best: Winner (2000, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008)
Nationality: American
Wimbledon seeding: No 9
Titles: 49 tour titles, 7 slams

She’s been there or thereabouts over the last year, reaching the Australian Open and Wimbledon final in 2017. And she’s won Wimbledon enough times [five] to know how to do it so I wouldn’t rule her out - especially if her serve is firing.

Johanna Konta
Age: 27
Wimbledon best: Semi-final (2017)
Nationality: British
Wimbledon seeding: No 22

Titles: 3 tour titles, 0 slams

She made the Wimbledon semis last year, and then the final of Nottingham a couple of weeks ago. She’s playing herself into a nice bit of form, and it’s always good to have the home-grown players doing well during the Championships.

Jo seems to be really comfortable on the grass as well and I think being at home helps her feel confident going into the tournament.

Maria Sharapova
Age: 31
Wimbledon best: Winner (2004)
Nationality: Russian
Wimbledon seeding: No 24
Titles: 36 tour titles, 5 slams

She’s won here before and could definitely do it again. After taking a bit of time to get back up to speed she’s made big improvements over the last few months. The reality is that the women’s draw is going to be really exciting because it looks like being so open. Sharapova is one of about 24 women I think could win the title.

Penpix of the top women's contenders at Wimbledon

(6/29/18) Penpix of the top women's contenders at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships:

Simona Halep (Romania)

World ranking: 1

Born: Sept. 27, 1991 (Age 26)

Height: 1.68 meters

Plays: Right-handed

Grand Slam titles: 1 (French Open 2018)

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 35-6

2018 WTA titles: 2

Biggest weapon: Halep's speed, shot placement and remarkable anticipation earned her a first grand slam title last month and the same qualities can help the Romanian thrive at the All England Club.

Biggest weakness: Despite her French Open triumph, Halep has a reputation for folding under the pressure of big matches.

Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

Born: July 11, 1990 (Age 27)

Height: 1.77 meters

Plays: Right-handed

World ranking: 2

Grand Slam titles: 1 (Australian Open 2018)

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 26-9

2018 WTA titles: 1

Biggest weapon: The fierce Dane is not one to back down from a fight and is ruthless in attack as she grinds her opponents down with her persistence.

Biggest weakness: Wozniacki has a tendency to get drawn into long rallies at the baseline rather than finding a killer shot or moving closer to the net and finishing off her opponent.

Garbine Muguruza (Spain)

World ranking: 3

Born: Oct. 8, 1993 (Age 24)

Height: 1.82 meters

Plays: Right-handed

Grand Slam titles: 2 (French Open 2016; Wimbledon 2017)

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 21-11

2018 WTA titles: 1

Biggest weapon: Defending champion Muguruza has always proclaimed that grass is her least favorite surface but the intimidating Spaniard's hard-hitting shots and unwavering tenacity are not to be messed with.

Biggest weakness: Muguruza tends to lose sight of the bigger picture and focus too much on being a perfectionist on occasion, a trait that opponents can take advantage of to rattle the world number three.

Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)

World ranking: 8

Born: March 8, 1990 (Age 28)

Height: 1.82 meters

Plays: Left-handed

Grand Slam titles: 2 (Wimbledon 2011, 2014)

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 37-7

2018 WTA titles: 5

Biggest weapon: As she has shown throughout her impressive comeback, Kvitova's powerful groundstrokes and perfect timing can be too much for her opponents to handle.

Biggest weakness: The Czech is not known for her court coverage on the tour, giving her opponents a chance to exploit her slower pace.

Serena Williams (U.S.)

World ranking: 183

Born: Sept. 26, 1981 (Age 36)

Height: 1.75 meters

Plays: Right-handed

Grand Slam titles: 23 (Australian Open 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017; French Open 2002, 2013, 2015; Wimbledon 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016; U.S. Open 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014)

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 5-2

2018 WTA titles: 0

Biggest weapon: One of the greatest players in the women's game, Serena has shown signs of returning to her best during her comeback and the American's punishing groundstrokes can unravel any opponent.

Biggest weakness: Serena has struggled with injuries and consistency since returning to the court after the birth of her daughter.

Maria Sharapova (Russia)

World ranking: 24

Born: April 19, 1987 (Age 31)

Height: 1.88 meters

Plays: Right-handed

Grand Slam titles: 5 (Australian Open 2008; French Open 2012, 2014; Wimbledon 2004; U.S. Open 2006)

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 15-8

2018 WTA titles: 0

Biggest weapon: Sharapova's relentless fighting spirit along with her imposing presence, powerful shots and match control make her hard to beat.

Biggest weakness: Sharapova struggles to find a way against more complex opponents and is lacking consistency ahead of her return to the All England Club for the first time since her doping ban.

NOTE: The 2018 match record of the players do not include results from the ongoing WTA event in Eastbourne.

Williams, Murray look to find past success at Wimbledon

(6/29/18) Serena Williams avoided any early matchups against opponents with success to speak of at Wimbledon in a draw on Friday that could put her against No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina in the third round.

Williams is returning to the grass-court tournament for the first time since 2016 after missing it last year while pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter in September.

She is ranked outside the top 150, but the All England Club decided to seed her 25th based on past success, which includes collecting seven of her 23 Grand Slam singles trophies at Wimbledon. Williams’ first-round opponent when play begins on Monday will be 107th-ranked Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, who has one career tour title.

Williams is competing for the first time since she pulled out of the French Open ahead of a fourth-round showdown against five-time major champion Maria Sharapova in early June, citing an injured chest muscle. That was Williams’ return to Grand Slam action after a 16-month absence.

Rus has only once been as far as Wimbledon’s third round, back in 2012. That was the last time she won a match at the All England Club. She was beaten in the first round of qualifying a year ago, as were both of the women Williams could meet in the second round, 136th-ranked qualifier Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria and 167th-ranked wild-card recipient Tereza Smitkova of the Czech Republic.

Svitolina has only once been as far as the fourth round.

Williams’ possible fourth-round opponent, 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys, made one quarterfinal appearance, while the 36-year-old American’s potential quarterfinal foe, reigning Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, has never been beyond the fourth round.

Williams could face her older sister, five-time champion and 2017 runner-up Venus, in the semifinals. The ninth-seeded Venus Williams opens against 62nd-ranked Johanna Larsson of Sweden, who is 0-7 at Wimbledon.

The Williams sisters are not in the doubles draw. They have won 14 Grand Slam titles as a pair, including six at Wimbledon.

In the top half of the women’s singles bracket, the quarterfinals could be French Open champion Simona Halep vs. two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, and defending champ Garbine Muguruza vs. No. 6 Caroline Garcia. In the bottom half, No. 2 Wozniacki was drawn to face Svitolina, while 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens could play No. 7 Karolina Pliskova.

The potential men’s quarterfinals in the top half are eight-time champion Roger Federer vs. 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Kevin Anderson, and 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic vs. No. 6 seed Grigor Dimitrov. In the bottom half of the bracket, it could be two-time Wimbledon winner Rafael Nadal vs. 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, and No. 4 Alexander Zverev vs. No. 7 Dominic Thiem.

Two-time champion Andy Murray will face 48th-ranked Benoit Paire in the first round. It’s a rematch of Murray’s fourth-round victory over the Frenchman at the All England Club in 2017.

That was Murray’s last win before he sat out nearly a year because of an injured hip that was surgically repaired in January.

He returned to action last week and so is ranked only 156th and unseeded at Wimbledon, which he won in 2013 and 2016.

Murray could face 26th-seeded Denis Shapovalov of Canada in the second round.

The top-seeded Federer’s opening opponent on Monday will be 57th-ranked Dusan Lajovic of Serbia. Their only previous meeting anywhere came in Wimbledon’s second round last year, when Federer won in straight sets en route to the title.

No. 2 seed Nadal, whose 17 Grand Slam titles trail only Federer’s 20 among men, faces 129th-ranked Dudi Sela of Israel on Tuesday. Nadal has won both of their previous matchups.

Men’s first-rounders to keep an eye on include Dimitrov against three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, who is still working his way back into form after knee surgery; 12-time major champ Novak Djokovic against Australian Open quarterfinalist Tennys Sandgren of the U.S.; and No. 23 Richard Gasquet against Gael Monfils in a matchup of Frenchmen.

Two women who lost a Wimbledon final against Serena Williams will meet in the first round when former No. 1 and two-time major champion Angelique Kerber plays qualifier Vera Zvonareva. Kerber was the runner-up in 2016, Zvonereva in 2010.

Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion who is seeded 24th, could face 2017 French Open champion and 12th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko in the third round, and Kvitova in the fourth.

World No. 1 Simona Halep among big names on Rogers Cup list

(6/28/18) Top-ranked Simona Halep is among the players confirmed to participate in the 2018 Rogers Cup, Tennis Canada announced Thursday.

Halep, the 2016 Rogers Cup champion, is coming off her first Grand Slam win at the French Open.

The top 25 players on the WTA Tour are planning to compete in the Aug. 6-12 Premier 5-level tournament at IGA Stadium, Tennis Canada said in a release.

Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, Maria Sharapova, Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki are among the other big names on the entry list.

Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka received a wild card on Tuesday. Four additional wild-card entries will be announced over the coming weeks.

There are 12 spots reserved for qualifiers in the 56-player draw.

Five women to watch at Wimbledon -- and a 'you cannot be serious!'

(6/28/18) Former world number one Serena Williams returns to Wimbledon after missing last year's tournament, while reigning champion Garbine Muguruza bids to retain the Venus Rosewater Dish.

AFP Sport looks at five of the leading contenders for the Wimbledon women's title -- and one outsider to watch:

Serena Williams (USA)

The return of the seven-time Wimbledon champion will hog the spotlight as Williams bids to win her first Grand Slam title since becoming a mother. Serena, 36, missed Wimbledon last year while preparing to give birth and has endured a rocky time since resuming her career earlier this year. The former world number one's run to the French Open last 16 was ended by a pectoral injury. But, regardless of her current lowly ranking, if the 23-time major winner is over that fitness problem she will be a serious contender for yet another Wimbledon triumph.

Garbine Muguruza (ESP)

The defending champion usually reserves her best for the big occasions and is one of the leading candidates to stop Serena making a winning return to Wimbledon. Muguruza was superb last year, dropping just one set in seven Wimbledon matches and routing Venus Williams in the final. The Spaniard has undoubted star quality and her big-hitting game suits grass.

Simona Halep (ROM)

The world number one arrives in London with serious momentum after finally winning her first Grand Slam crown. Halep's triumph at the French Open was a cathartic moment, but her game is more suited to clay than grass. She does boast two quarter-finals and one semi-final from her last four Wimbledon appearances.

Petra Kvitova (CZE)

Kvitova would be one of the most popular Wimbledon winners in recent years after making her way back to the top 10 following the horrific stabbing the derailed her career in 2016. The Czech was already a fan favourite at Wimbledon after winning the title in 2011 and 2014. She goes into the tournament in good form after lifting the trophy in Birmingham last weekend although a hamstring injury forced a withdrawal from Eastbourne on Wednesday.

Maria Sharapova (RUS)

Sharapova has not played a match on grass since losing to Serena in the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2015. Since then the Russian has slowly come back from her doping ban and an injury last year. The five-time major winner looked much more like her old self at the French Open, where she made the quarter-finals. But the 31-year-old hasn't won Wimbledon since 2004 and it might be asking too much to end that drought now.

....'You cannot be serious!'

AFP Sport's outside tip for the Wimbledon title:

Naomi Osaka (JPN)

The 20-year-old world number 18 is the youngest player in the top 40 and on her Wimbledon debut last year was only stopped in the third round by former champion Venus Williams. Inside the top 10 for aces served this year, Osaka has the power from her 5ft 11ins (1.80m) frame to thrive on fast courts as she showed by winning the prestigious Indian Wells title in March, defeating Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep along the way.

Serena Williams seeded 25th for women’s singles at Wimbledon

(6/27/18) Serena Williams was seeded No. 25 for her return to Wimbledon after having a baby, a decision by the All England Club announced Wednesday that elevates the tournament’s seven-time champion above her ranking of 183rd.

While WTA rules allow women who miss time because of a pregnancy to enter events based on their pre-absence ranking, there is no guarantee of a seeding, a policy which has been the subject of much debate in recent months because of Williams’ status. The 36-year-old American gave birth to a daughter last September and was off the tour for more than a year.

By moving Williams into the top 32, the All England Club afforded her "protection" from facing any other seeded player in either of the first two rounds — and, of course, allowed the other seeds to avoid facing her that early, too. Williams is a former No. 1 whose 23 major singles championships are a record for the professional era, which began in 1968. She missed Wimbledon in 2017, but won the title the last two times she was in the field, in 2015 and 2016.

Putting Williams at No. 25 now means that she could face someone seeded No. 1 through No. 8 in the third round.

The draw for Wimbledon is Friday; play begins Monday.

Wimbledon and other Grand Slam tournaments have leeway to stray from strictly following the WTA and ATP rankings when determining seedings. That’s why, for example, eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer’s success on grass courts was taken into account when the All England Club bumped him up a spot to No. 1 on Wednesday, while top-ranked Rafael Nadal is seeded No. 2.

When Williams entered the French Open in May, her first Grand Slam action in 16 months, she was not seeded by the French tennis federation. She wound up beating the women ranked No. 11 and No. 17 en route to reaching the fourth round. But because of an injured pectoral muscle, Williams pulled out of Roland Garros before what would have been a showdown against five-time major champion Maria Sharapova.

The U.S. Tennis Association says it does intend to seed Williams for the U.S. Open, which begins in August. That is part of a new plan, first reported by The New York Times, to take into account if a pregnancy affected a player’s ranking.

"Pregnancy will not be penalized," USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said. "If Serena Williams enters the 2018 U.S. Open, the USTA will recognize her accomplishments, recognize her return to the workplace and will seed her, regardless of what her ranking is."

One effect of Williams’ being seeded at the All England Club: The 32nd-ranked Dominika Cibulkova, a two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist and the 2014 Australian Open runner-up, will not benefit from a seeding and could play anyone in the field in the first round.

"I don’t think it’s the right thing to do," Cibulkova told British broadcaster BBC ahead of Wednesday’s seeding announcement. "I think it’s just not fair."

No unseeded woman has won the Wimbledon singles championship. Only two unseeded men have raised the trophy at the All England Club: Boris Becker in 1985, and Goran Ivanisevic in 2001.

Aside from the All England Club’s placing of Williams, the women’s seedings align with the rankings. So French Open champion Simona Halep is No. 1, Australian Open Caroline Wozniacki is No. 2, reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is No. 3, and U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens is No. 4.

Sharapova is seeded 24th.

In the men’s draw, after Federer and Nadal, 2017 runner-up Marin Cilic is No. 3, followed by Alexander Zverev and Juan Martin del Potro.

Sharapova back at Wimbledon and at crossroads

(6/27/18) There will be perfectly-timed put downs, gushing photo spreads, tired tabloid moans about the grunts and a stream of questions about Serena Williams.

It can only mean one thing: Maria Sharapova is back at Wimbledon.

Three years after her last appearance at the All England Club, and 14 years since the Russian won the title, launching the giggling teenager into the financial and media stratosphere, Sharapova's career is at a crossroads.

Now 31, Sharapova missed 2016 Wimbledon as she sat out a doping ban while injury scuppered her plans to play the qualifying tournament 12 months ago.

She is without a Slam title in four years, her fifth and most recent coming at the French Open in 2014 while she has won just one trophy -- a low-key end-of-season affair in Tianjin -- since her return from suspension.

However, there have been flashes of vintage Sharapova along the way and when she returned to Grand Slam tennis at the US Open last year, it was in some style.

Wearing a diamond-encrusted black number, she knocked out then world number two Simona Halep first up on the way to the last 16.

At this year's French Open, she comfortably disposed of sixth-ranked Karolina Pliskova for the loss of just three games before running out of steam in a quarter-final defeat to reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza.

The fourth round in Paris should have pitted her against Williams but fans were denied a 22nd meeting between the pair when the American withdrew injured.

Williams has loomed large in the Sharapova story.

The American lost to her in the 2004 final at the All England Club and at the Tour Championships that same year.

Since then, however, Sharapova has lost 18 on the bounce to her career-long nemesis.

- Public battles -

That run includes a semi-final defeat at Wimbledon in her last appearance at the tournament in 2015.

Williams was also the victor in the quarter-finals of the 2016 Australian Open, Sharapova's last event before her 15-month doping ban kicked in.

Adding spice to this year's Wimbledon, the two clashed off the court at Roland Garros when Williams described claims made against her by Sharapova in her autobiography as "100 percent hearsay".

Sharapova fired back: "When you're writing an autobiography, I don't think there is any reason to write anything that's not true."

On the eve of Wimbledon five years ago, they were trading barbs again when Williams gave an explosive interview to Rolling Stone magazine.

"She begins every interview with 'I'm so happy. I'm so lucky' – it's so boring," said Williams without namechecking the Russian.

"She's still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it."

The 'black heart' was a not so subtle reference to Bulgarian tennis player Grigor Dimitrov, a rumoured former boyfriend of Williams, who was then dating Sharapova.

A few days later, Sharapova aimed a trademark icy riposte at Williams who is now a seven-time Wimbledon winner.

"If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids," she said in reference to Patrick Mouratoglou, who is still Williams's coach but was reportedly her boyfriend at the time as well.

Fifteen years after making her Wimbledon bow as a 16-year-old, Sharapova knows that with a game made for grass, a return of just the Wimbledon title is meagre.

She has been back to the final only once since 2004, losing 6-3, 6-4 to Petra Kvitova in 2011.

There have also been some embarrassing howlers -- in 2008, losing to Alla Kudryatseva, ranked 154, then to world number 45 Gisela Dulko in 2009 and to Michelle Larcher de Brito, a 131st-ranked Portuguese qualifier in 2013.

Now ranked 24 in the world, Sharapova heads to Wimbledon without any competitive grasscourt action having pulled out of Birmingham last week.

"I need to take care of my body and make sure I stay healthy," said the Russian who still managed to get some time on Centre Court this week.

She wasn't practicing but was giving Canadian ice hockey legend Sidney Crosby a guided tour.

Sharapova out of Birmingham with Wimbledon in mind

(6/13/18) Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from next week's WTA grass court event in Birmingham, opting instead to rest ahead of her return to Wimbledon after a three-year absence.

The 31-year-old Russian, who was Wimbledon champion in 2004, has not played at the All England Club since 2015, when she made the semi-finals.

She was serving a doping ban in 2016 and was injured in 2017 when she was planning to play the qualifying tournament.

"I have good memories of Birmingham so I'm disappointed not to be able to play this year," said Sharapova, a two-time champion at the Wimbledon warm-up event.

"I need to take care of my body and make sure I stay healthy and sometimes that means you have to take tough decisions like this one."

Sharapova, the world number 23, made the French Open quarter-finals last week where she was defeated by Spain's Garbine Muguruza.

Sharapova hits back at Serena in book row

(6/7/18) Former world number one Maria Sharapova hit back at Serena Williams' criticism of her autobiography on Wednesday -- two days after their much-anticipated showdown at the French Open was scuppered by an injury to her American rival.

Williams had described Sharapova's book "Unstoppable", in which the Russian claimed the American hated her for beating her in the 2004 Wimbledon final and reducing her to "guttural sobs" as "100 percent hearsay".

The 23-times Grand Slam champion also expressed her surprise that so much of Sharapova's book revolved around her.

"I didn't expect to be reading a book about me, that wasn't necessarily true," Williams said earlier this week.

Sharapova, 31, had her chance to reply on Wednesday after her chastening quarter-final defeat by Spain's Garbine Muguruza in which she won only three games.

"Well, I think it would be strange for me not to include someone that I have competed against for so many years," a glum Sharapova, who has lost 19 of her 21 matches against Williams, told reporters.

"I think there is a lot of autobiographies out in the world, especially in the sporting world, that don't necessarily speak about whether they were rivals or someone they competed against.

"And I think we played many matches. Some of those matches were very defining for me. It would be very strange if I didn't write anything about her. I think everyone would ask me questions, as well.

"So I'm not entirely sure how to go about that answer. When you're writing an autobiography, I don't think there is any reason to write anything that's not true."


Sharapova also said she had been surprised by Williams's withdrawal with a pectoral injury shortly before they had been due on court on Monday.

"I hadn't had a withdrawal (against me) in -- I don't know how long. It's probably been maybe like six years or something.

"So I didn't really know what to do. Is there a Lucky Loser coming? I mean, I think she made everyone wait a little bit."

Sharapova was back at the French Open this year, scene of two of her five Grand Slam titles, for the first time since 2015. She was banned in 2016 following a failed doping test and last year, shortly after she returned to the Tour, organizers declined to offer her a wildcard.

Her return has not been entirely smooth and she has won only one title since making her comeback.

But after a solid claycourt season in which she reached the quarter-finals in Madrid and semis in Rome, Sharapova appears to be heading in the right direction and she will be close to the top 20 again when the rankings are published on Monday.

"Coming into this part of the year, I was losing a few first-round matches, matches that I wanted to be winning, of course," she said.

"But to have had the victories that I have had, to have the results that I have, obviously moving a step in the right direction. But today was certainly not one of those steps."

Muguruza condemns Sharapova to worst Slam loss in 6 years, faces Halep

(6/7/18) Garbine Muguruza thrashed Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-1 to reach the French Open semi-finals on Wednesday, condemning the Russian to her worst Grand Slam defeat in more than six years.

The Spanish third seed, who was the champion in Paris in 2016, will face top seed Simona Halep for a place in Saturday's final.

That semi-final will also decide the number one spot next week.

Current world number one Halep made the semi-finals for the third time by battling past Germany's Angelique Kerber 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 6-2.

Sharapova, playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, suffered her most one-sided defeat at the Slams since a 6-3, 6-0 loss to Victoria Azarenka in the 2012 Australian Open final.

"I am very pleased to be in another final in Paris," said Muguruza who has yet to drop a set in the tournament and claimed her first win over Sharapova in four meetings.

"I was up against a great player so I had make sure I brought my best tennis."

Sharapova, who missed the 2016 tournament because of a doping ban and last year after she was refused a wild card, was broken six times, committed 27 unforced errors and won just five points on her own serve in the second set.

It was just her fifth loss in 25 Grand Slam quarter-finals.

"To have had the victories that I have had, to have the results that I have, obviously moving a step in the right direction," said Sharapova who had made the last-eight in Madrid and semis in Rome in the run-up to Paris.

"But today was certainly not one of those steps."

Muguruza pounced on an error-plagued Sharapova start to lead 4-0 with a double break.

Sharapova never recovered from serving up three double faults in the first game.

By the end of the first set, the five-time major winner had won just eight points against the Muguruza serve and failed to carve out a single break point.

Muguruza only hit five winners in the opener which was more than enough against the erratic Russian who reached the quarter-finals for the first time in three years when old rival Serena Williams handed her an injury-enforced walkover.

Sharapova, 31, was broken in the opening game of the second set which she immediately retrieved.

However, it was just a brief respite as 24-year-old Wimbledon champion Muguruza claimed a quick double break for 4-1, backed up by a hold for 5-1.

It was all over in the next game when Sharapova sent another backhand out wide.

On Court Suzanne Lenglen, 2014 and 2017 runner-up Halep, came back from a set down for the second time in the tournament to see off 12th seed Kerber who was bidding to become the first German woman in the last-four since Steffi Graf in 1999.

Two-time major winner Kerber raced into a 4-0 lead in the first set before having to rely on a tiebreak to nudge her ahead.

However, Halep proved the steadier player in the remainder of a tie which featured a total of 99 unforced errors and 12 breaks of serve.

In Thursday's other semi-final, US Open champion Sloane Stephens will take on fellow American Madison Keys in a repeat of the 2017 final at Flushing Meadows.

'Beyond disappointed': Injured Serena withdraws from French Open before Sharapova clash

(6/4/18) Serena Williams announced her shock withdrawal from the French Open with injury on Monday just minutes before her scheduled fourth-round clash against long-time bitter rival and fellow Grand Slam icon Maria Sharapova.

The 36-year-old said she had suffered a pectoral muscle injury in her third-round win over Julia Goerges and "can't serve at all".

The 23-time Grand Slam champion added that she would stay in Paris for scans on the injury to find out how long she will be out of action.

"I unfortunately have been having some issues with my pec, my pec muscle, and (it) has unfortunately been getting worse to the point where right now I can't actually serve. It's kind of hard to play when I can't physically serve," she explained.

She was unable to say whether or not she would be fit for Wimbledon which gets underway in four weeks' time.

"I'm beyond disappointed," added three-time Roland Garros champion Williams who was playing in her first Grand Slam since winning the 2017 Australian Open while two months pregnant.

She was also in just her third tournament of the year after giving birth to daughter Olympia in September.

"I gave up so much time with my daughter and time with my family all for this moment. So it's really difficult to be in this situation."

The shock withdrawal came just minutes before she was due on Court Philippe Chatrier to face fierce rival Sharapova.

Williams has not lost to the Russian since 2004, winning the last 18 matches.

It had been the most eagerly-awaited match of the tournament, coming just two days after Williams had blasted Sharapova's autobiography for being "100 percent hearsay" when it came to references about her.

- 'Sacrificed so much' -

Sharapova, the champion in Paris in 2012 and 2014, goes on to play a first quarter-final at the Slams since losing to Williams at the same stage at the 2016 Australian Open.

It was in Melbourne that Sharapova tested positive for meldonium after which she served a 15-month doping ban.

The Russian will face either 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza or Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine for a semi-final place.

"I was looking forward to my match against Serena and am disappointed that she had to withdraw," said Sharapova in a statement.

"I wish her a speedy recovery and hope she returns to the tour soon."

Monday's bombshell announcement was the first time in her 20-year career that Williams had pulled out during a Grand Slam event.

Despite her well-documented fall-outs with Sharapova, Williams insisted she had been looking forward to the match.

"I love playing Maria -- it's just a match I always get up for. Her game matches so well against mine."

Despite playing just four matches in 2018 before Roland Garros, Williams played doubles in Paris with sister Venus.

They had been knocked out on Sunday by Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez with the American sisters getting a 6-0 bagel in the final set.

Serena had gone into that match wearing her striking all-black catsuit but she admitted she had had to tape her serving arm to try and protect the injury.

"Every match has been getting better for me. Physically I'm doing great.

"I sacrificed so much to be at this event. I can only take solace in the fact I'm going to continue to get better.

"And I had such a wonderful performance in my first Grand Slam back. I just feel like it's only going to do better."

However, her status for Wimbledon where she has been champion seven times, will only become clear once she has had an MRI.

"I made a promise that if I'm not at least 60 percent or 50 percent, then I probably shouldn't play," she added.

"The fact that I physically can't serve at all is a good indication that maybe I should just go back to the drawing board and stay positive and try to get better and not get it to a point where it could be a lot worse."

Serena Williams pulls out of French Open with injury

(6/4/18) Serena Williams has called off her Grand Slam comeback, pulling out of the French Open because of a chest injury before she was supposed to play Maria Sharapova.

Williams announced her withdrawal at a news conference at Roland Garros on Monday.

Williams' voice quivered as she said she can't serve because of a problem with her tight pectoral muscle.

She and Sharapova were scheduled to play a fourth-round match Monday.

2004 and all that: World events when Sharapova last beat Serena

(6/3/18) Maria Sharapova has not beaten bitter rival Serena Williams since 2004 -- before even the advent of Twitter and YouTube, two platforms which have since transformed their profiles.

Ahead of their first clash in over two years at the French Open on Monday, AFP Sports looks at the main world events of 2004:


-- At the Oscars, Lord of the Rings wins Best Picture, Sean Penn is Best Actor for Mystic River while the Best Actress award goes to Charlize Theron for Monster.

-- Mark Zuckerburg creates Facebook with roommates in California.


-- Terror attacks carried out by jihadists, linked to Al Qaeda, on four Madrid commuter trains kill 191 people and injure hundreds more.

-- Four contractors working for the US army ambushed and killed in Fallujah as the Iraqi city is convulsed by an insurgency.


-- Pictures emerge of American soldiers allegedly abusing Iraqi detainees in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.


-- Former US President Ronald Reagan dies after a long fight with Alzheimer's Disease. He was 93.


-- Hollywood legend Marlon Brando dies at the age of 80 in Los Angeles.


-- Summer Olympics take place in Athens.


-- More than 300 people, over half of them children, die at a school siege in Beslan in Russia. The school had been seized by Chechen militants.


-- Superman star Christopher Reeve dies at 52, nine years after being paralysed in a fall from his horse.


-- George W Bush wins a second term as US President, beating challenger John Kerry.


-- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat dies in Paris at the age of 75.

Serena v Sharapova - five classic matches

(6/3/18) Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will renew their bitter 14-year rivalry in the French Open last 16 on Monday, with the American dominating their record 19-2.

Here are five classic matches between the two former world number ones:

2004 - Wimbledon final

Sharapova won 6-4, 6-1

-- Sharapova announced herself to the tennis world in dramatic fashion as a 17-year-old at the All England Club by dismantling defending champion Williams in straight sets to become the third-youngest winner of the title. The Russian claimed 13 years later in her book that she heard her beaten opponent crying in the dressing room afterwards, saying she believed that was the motivation for Serena's incredible run of 18 straight wins against her.

2005 - Australian Open semi-finals

Williams won 2-6, 7-5, 8-6

-- Serena suffered her second defeat in three meetings with Sharapova in 2004 at the WTA Tour Championships, but hit back in some style just three months later at Melbourne Park. Sharapova looked set to notch a third straight win over her rival, but failed to serve for the match twice, with Williams saving three match points on the second occasion. The American edged a dramatic deciding set, before seeing off Lindsay Davenport in the final to clinch her first Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2003.

2012 - Olympics final

Williams won 6-0, 6-1

-- After a straightforward Williams victory at the 2007 Australian Open, the pair did not meet again in a final for over five years, with the eagerly-awaited moment coming at the London Olympics. The match was hyped like a Grand Slam final, with the tournament played at Wimbledon. But Serena underlined her dominance over Sharapova, dropping just one game in a 63-minute humbling to become the first player in history to win all four Grand Slam titles and Olympic singles and doubles gold medals.

2013 - French Open final

Williams won 6-4, 6-4

-- The only previous time the two have faced off at Roland Garros came in the final five years ago. Sharapova was the defending champion, and fought bravely for much of the match, but could not do enough to stop Williams securing victory at a time when she was at the absolute peak of her powers. It was her 31st consecutive win and her 16th Grand Slam crown, while Sharapova would go on to regain the French Open title in 2014 -- her last major triumph.

2016 - Australian Open quarter-finals

Williams won 6-4, 6-1

-- It has been over two years since Serena and Sharapova's last on-court clash, but plenty has happened since. Williams eased to her 18th successive win over Sharapova in the Australian Open quarter-finals, but the Russian was then hit with a 15-month doping ban for using the banned substance meldonium. By the time she had returned to the tour in 2017, Williams was taking time off due to pregnancy.

Serena v Sharapova - famous losing streaks

(6/3/18) Maria Sharapova faces Serena Williams in the French Open fourth round on Monday, desperate to end a miserable 18-match losing streak to the American dating back to 2004.

The Russian has only managed to take three sets off Williams during that run, with Serena winning their last seven meetings in straight sets.

But Sharapova can take some solace in the fact that she's not alone -- here are five memorable losing streaks from the world of sport:

The Curse of the Billy Goat

-- Perhaps the most infamous drought was the Chicago Cubs' wait for an MLB title after the Curse of the Billy Goat in 1945. After being asked to leave Wrigley Field because of the smell of his pet goat, Billy Sianis supposedly said that the team would "win no more". The Cubs had to wait until 2016 to end the drought -- having lost four consecutive National League Championship series since losing the 1945 World Series -- going on to add a first World Series crown since 1908 to boot.

Bangladesh's tough test

-- Bangladesh were granted Test cricket status in 2000, becoming the 10th top-level nation, but embarked on a record-breaking 21-match losing streak between 2001-2003. The team were widely-criticised by both pundits from other countries and their own fans, before finally stopping the rot against Zimbabwe. Habibul Bashar's men didn't do much to earn their second Test draw, though, with rain for three days saving their blushes.

207 defeats in a row

-- The Caltech college men's basketball team suffered 207 consecutive losses from 1996 to 2007. The California-based outfit from an exclusive school of only 1,000 students also lost 310 straight conference games. Their plight became a documentary called 'Quantum Hoops', with the tagline 'before they change the world, they need to win one game'.

Benevento whipping boys

-- Italian Serie A new boys Benevento had a horrific start to last season in their debut top-flight campaign, losing 14 consecutive matches. The way they ended their run may end up better remembered than their previous struggles, though, as goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli's flying injury-time header earned them a 2-2 draw with AC Milan.

Gasquet's 16 against Nadal

-- Back to tennis, and Richard Gasquet saw his wait for a Tour-level win over childhood friend and old junior rival Rafael Nadal extended to 16 matches in the French Open third round on Saturday. The ruthless Spaniard has had the better of his French rival since turning professional, with Nadal now having won 28 consecutive sets against his fellow 31-year-old since 2008.

Serena and Sharapova ready to sharpen the edge

(6/3/18) The on-court rivalry is so lop-sided it can barely be described as such yet Serena Williams' French Open fourth-round clash with Maria Sharapova on Monday feels like the biggest match played on the women's Tour this year.

Not just because Williams looks capable of landing a 24th Grand Slam title against all the odds having returned from maternity leave and Sharapova is seeking redemption after a 15-month doping ban with a third French Open title.

But because no match-up in a women's field packed with potential Grand Slam winners provides the "edge" that is so apparent whenever the two spiky old warriors face each other across a tennis net.

It has been missing for two-and-a-half years, since Williams extended her domination of Sharapova to 19-2 with an Australian Open quarter-final victory that proved more significant than anyone could have imagined at the time.

Sharapova was found to have taken meldonium, a recently banned heart drug, and was slapped with a suspension by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

Sharapova's comeback is more advanced, having returned to the Tour, with modest success, 12 months ago although this is her first French Open since 2015, having been snubbed by organizers last year and not handed a wildcard.

Williams, 36, has played only a handful of matches this year but the three-times French Open champion has looked so dangerous in her black bodysuit in Paris that she seems capable of defying conventional wisdom and reclaiming the title.

Sharapova spoke of her rivalry with Williams extensively in her autobiography last year.

A little too much, according to Williams who offered a thoughts on the subject on Saturday.

"I didn't expect to be reading a book about me, that wasn't necessarily true," she said, after a dazzling display against 11th seed Julia Goerges.


Sharapova, who stunned Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final but has not beaten her for 14 years, had written: "Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon. Hated me for seeing her at her lowest moment. But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. She's never forgiven me for it."

So expect the roars and fist-pumps to have a little extra intensity on Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday when the pressure will surely sit more heavily on Sharapova.

After 18 defeats in a row to Williams and losing the last 16 sets they have contested she might never have a better chance to strike a blow -- a point Williams, ranked a laughable 451st in the world, raised after her third-round win.

"She's probably a favorite in this match," Williams said. "I'm just really trying to get my bearings and trying to feel out where I am and see where I can go."

Former men's champion Mats Wilander also gives Sharapova the edge after watching her destroy sixth seed Karolina Pliskova -- but says past bashings may still haunt her.

"I would say this is most probably Maria Sharapova's biggest chance in a very long time to beat Serena Williams," Wilander, hosting Eurosport's flagship Game, Schett and Mats show in Paris, told Reuters.

"Maria has won here twice and her claycourt is really good at the moment. You would assume Serena's not at her best.

"But how much mental scar tissue, how much baggage does Maria Sharapova carry with her on court. If she cannot manage to win a set in this match then you know it has nothing to do with the physical side."

'100 percent hearsay': Serena slams Sharapova book ahead of French Open clash

(6/2/18) Serena Williams turned up the heat on Saturday ahead of her French Open clash with bitter rival Maria Sharapova, saying the claims about her in the Russian's book were "hearsay" and not "necessarily true".

Sharapova, who Williams has beaten 18 times in a row, claimed in her recent memoir 'Unstoppable' that Serena "hated" her for hearing her cry after the 2004 Wimbledon final.

The fourth-round match at Roland Garros on Monday will be the first time the two have faced off since the American's win in the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals -- Sharapova's last match before serving a 15-month doping ban.

"I think the book was 100 percent hearsay, at least all the stuff I read and the quotes that I read, which was a little bit disappointing," said Williams after her 6-3, 6-4 third-round win over Julia Goerges.

"I have cried in the locker room many times after a loss, and that's what I have seen a lot of people do. I think it's normal.

"It's a Wimbledon final, you know. So it's just, like, I think it would be more shocking if I wasn't in tears...

"The book was a lot about me. I was surprised about that, to be honest. You know, I was, like, 'oh, okay. I didn't expect to be reading a book about me, that wasn't necessarily true'."

The 23-time Grand Slam champion, who holds a 19-2 record over Sharapova, is playing her first major tournament since winning the 2017 Australian Open, after giving birth to her daughter Olympia.

Williams's only two losses to fellow former world number one Sharapova came 14 years ago -- in the 2004 Wimbledon final and at the WTA Tour Championships -- before even the birth of Twitter and YouTube.

But both are on the road back towards the top of the sport after their recent absences.

Williams had played only four matches since taking time off due to pregnancy before arriving at Roland Garros.

Sharapova is seeded for the first time at a Grand Slam since her suspension for using meldonium and is playing her first French Open since 2015 after being refused a wildcard by tournament organisers last year.

But the 36-year-old thinks the Russian should be the favourite on Monday as she lacks playing time, while Sharapova produced her best tennis since returning to the court in dismantling former world number one Karolina Pliskova 6-2, 6-1.

"Quite frankly, she's probably a favourite in this match, for sure," added Serena.

"She's been playing for over a year now. I just started. So I'm just really trying to get my bearings and trying to feel out where I am and see where I can go."

- 'Numbers don't lie' -

The rivalry between the two has been a bitter one since the Russian's shock victory over Williams as a 17-year-old at Wimbledon, but she admitted that the "numbers don't lie".

Sharapova has lost their last seven meetings in straight sets and has managed to take only three sets in those 18 straight losses.

"Any time you play against Serena you know what you're up against," said the 31-year-old.

"You know the challenge that is upon you. You know, despite the record that I have against her, I always look forward to coming out on the court and competing against the best player.

"I think there is a lot of things in her game that she's done much better than I have... Numbers don't lie."

But for all the bad blood between the two over the years -- often involving claims and counter-claims over their private lives -- Sharapova added in her book that reconciliation may come once the on-court battles are over.

"Serena and I should be friends; we have the same passion. But we are not. I think, to some extent, we have driven each other. Maybe that's what it takes," she wrote.

"Only when you have that intense antagonism can you find the strength to finish her off. Who knows? Some day, when all this is in our past, maybe we'll become friends."

'Numbers don't lie': Sharapova desperate to end 14-year losing streak to Serena

(6/2/18) Maria Sharapova admitted on Saturday that "numbers don't lie" as she prepared to face bitter rival Serena Williams, who she has lost to 18 times in a row, in the French Open fourth round.

Sharapova, who thrashed Karolina Pliskova in the third round, will face Williams for the 22nd time in the last 16 on Monday, after the American saw off Germany's Julia Goerges 6-3, 6-4.

Serena leads her head-to-head record with Sharapova 19-2, with the Russian's last win coming at the 2004 WTA Tour Championships -- before even the birth of Twitter and YouTube.

Sharapova has lost their last seven meetings in straight sets and has managed to take only three sets off the 36-year-old in those 18 straight defeats.

It will the first time the two have faced off since the American's win in the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals -- Sharapova's last match before serving a 15-month doping ban.

"Any time you play against Serena you know what you're up against," said the 31-year-old Sharapova, who beat Pliskova 6-2, 6-1 on Saturday.

"You know the challenge that is upon you. You know, despite the record that I have against her, I always look forward to coming out on the court and competing against the best player.

"I think there is a lot of things in her game that she's done much better than I have... Numbers don't lie."

Sharapova and Serena's rivalry is the most closely examined in the sport and not always for what happens on court.

There have been clashes over their private lives, while Sharapova claimed last year in her book that Serena "hates" her for hearing her cry after the 2004 Wimbledon final.

This will be the earliest the two have played each other in a tournament since a last-16 match at Wimbledon in 2010, with the majority of their meetings coming in finals and semi-finals.

But both are on the road back towards the top of the sport after their recent absences.

Williams had played only four matches since taking time off due to pregnancy before arriving at Roland Garros.

Sharapova is seeded for the first time at a Grand Slam since her suspension for using meldonium and is playing her first French Open since 2015 after being refused a wildcard by tournament organisers last year.

The Russian may feel that this is as good a time as any to play her nemesis, though, with three-time Roland Garros winner Williams lacking playing time, while Sharapova produced her best tennis since returning to the court in dismantling former world number one Pliskova.

But for all the bad blood between the two over the years, Sharapova hinted in her book last year that reconciliation may come once the on-court battles are over.

"Serena and I should be friends; we have the same passion. But we are not. I think, to some extent, we have driven each other. Maybe that's what it takes," she wrote.

"Only when you have that intense antagonism can you find the strength to finish her off. Who knows? Some day, when all this is in our past, maybe we'll become friends."

Sharapova sets up potential Serena clash, Nadal faces childhood friend

(6/2/18) Maria Sharapova marked her first appearance on Court Philippe Chatrier in three years with a 6-2, 6-1 rout of Karolina Pliskova to set-up a potential French Open last-16 duel with old rival Serena Williams on Saturday, while 10-time champion Rafael Nadal was due to face childhood friend Richard Gasquet.

Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, the winner in Paris in 2012 and 2014, hadn't played on Roland Garros' showpiece arena since a quarter-final exit in 2015.

The 31-year-old served a doping suspension in 2016 and was refused a wildcard in 2017.

However, she made up for lost time by firing 18 winners past an under-cooked Pliskova, the sixth seed, in just under an hour.

She will next face either 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams or German 11th seed Julia Goerges.

Sharapova and Serena have met 21 times, with the American leading the head-to-head record 19-2 after 18 consecutive wins dating back to 2004.

"I knew I had to play well against a tough opponent. I managed to stay aggressive and I played smart as well," said Sharapova.

Williams, the champion in 2002, 2013 and 2015 and playing her first Slam since giving birth to her daughter in September, last played a major at the Australian Open in 2017 while two months pregnant.

She has dominated the headlines in Paris as much for her play -- she came back from a set and break down to beat Ashleigh Barty in the second round -- as for her striking all-black catsuit.

The 36-year-old Williams, now ranked at 451 in the world, boasts a 2-0 career lead over Georges.

It may not be easy on the eye with Williams's renowned power-hitting up against the 29-year-old German who leads the aces count on the WTA Tour in 2018 with 212.

Former champion Garbine Muguruza reached the last 16 for the fifth successive year with a comfortable 6-0, 6-2 win over Australia's Sam Stosur.

Spanish third seed Muguruza, the 2016 winner in Paris and the reigning Wimbledon champion, fired 15 winners past Stosur, the 34-year-old 2010 runner-up and former US Open champion.

"I knew this would be very tough against a former US Open winner and a player who has made the final here," said 24-year-old Muguruza.

"If I didn't play my best tennis, I realised that it would be very hard."

The Spaniard goes on to face Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine who knocked out Slovakian 19th seed Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2, 6-4.

Estonian 25th seed Anett Kontaveit made the last 16 for the first time by downing Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova who saw her 13-match win streak end in a horror show of 57 unforced errors.

Kontaveit next faces US Open champion Sloane Stephens, the American 10th seed, who saw off Italy's Camila Giorgi 4-6, 6-1, 8-6.

Defending champion, world number one and top seed Nadal, chasing an 11th Roland Garros title, takes on Gasquet having won all of their 15 meetings.

If he wins in straight sets on Saturday, he will take his run of consecutive completed sets to 34, just seven shy of the record held by Bjorn Borg between 1979 and 1981.

Italy's Fabio Fognini made the last 16 for the second time with a 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Britain's last man standing Kyle Edmund.

Fognini joins compatriot Marco Cecchinato in the fourth round, the first time that more than one Italian has made the last 16 since 1976.

Women's top seed Simona Halep, twice a runner-up, has been shunted out to Court 18 for her third round clash against experienced German Andrea Petkovic.

Halep leads their head-to-head 6-1, including a clash in the semi-finals in Paris in 2015.

2-time French Open champ reminds: 'There is also Sharapova'

(5/31/18) The topic was the location of Maria Sharapova's upcoming third-round match at the French Open, and a reporter noted it likely will be at one of the tournament's main arenas, given that it involves 2016 U.S. Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova.

''Well,'' came the rejoinder, ''there is also Sharapova.''

This was delivered with Sharapova's chin resting on her right hand and was followed by a bit of a staredown, as if to say: Let's not forget who you're talking to here. The 31-year-old Russian has, after all, been ranked No. 1. She does, after all, own five major titles. And that total does, after all, include a pair from Roland Garros.

She is playing in the clay-court Grand Slam tournament for the first time since 2015, though, and she advanced Wednesday by beating 50th-ranked Donna Vekic of Croatia 7-5, 6-4 to improve to 13-0 in the second round.

''I don't think there is ever, like, a perfect way to go into a match. I think you always have to feel that you're improving and there are things that you're working on, because that will always make you better,'' the 28th-seeded Sharapova said. ''There are a lot of things I feel I could have done better (in) the last two matches and I hope I will.''

She missed the 2016 French Open while serving a doping suspension, then was denied a wild-card entry by the French tennis federation last year, when her ranking was too low to earn automatic entry.

When on-target, her strokes are among the best in the game. So is her grit.

Those could both be tested Saturday against Pliskova, who is seeded No. 6 and was a semifinalist in Paris last year.

Her top skill is her serve, which Sharapova knows will provide a test.

''I don't expect extremely long rallies against an opponent like that. But sometimes (that's) not what it takes to win a match, and I think you have to kind of take care of your service games, and I have to serve better than I have been,'' Sharapova said. ''And take care of the return. But that side of the game, I feel, has improved in the last few months.''

Pliskova is on pace to lead the WTA in aces for the fourth consecutive season.

And she wasn't at all shy about sizing things up against Sharapova, saying: ''I believe I have (a) better serve than she (does), so I think that can be the deciding key.''

Then there was this remark: ''She can do a lot of mistakes ... a lot of free points from double-faults.''

After her 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over 2015 French Open runner-up Lucie Safarova on Wednesday, Pliskova acknowledged she has been thinking about taking on Sharapova since the draw was done a week ago.

''For me, it was the goal to play her in the third round,'' Pliskova said, adding a few moments later: ''I believe I have a good chance to win.''

Sharapova anticipates return to the limelight in Paris

(5/31/18) It came as a surprise that Maria Sharapova, a two-time French Open champion and former world number one, was sent to Court One for her second-round match, but she'll most likely be back in the spotlight on Saturday.

The Russian, back at Roland Garros as 28th seed after a two-year hiatus, beat Croatia's Donna Vekic 7-5 6-4 on Thursday on "the Bullring", a court with less space around the lines, possibly making her task harder.

Sharapova has been used to play on the biggest courts at Grand Slams since she came to prominence by winning Wimbledon in 2004 at the age of 17.

Asked how it would feel to return to a main show court for her third-round match, she replied: "Do you know the schedule?"

The reporter: "Because it's (sixth seed Karolina) Pliskova..."

Sharapova: "Well, there is also Sharapova."

The five-time Grand Slam champion missed the 2016 tournament because of a doping ban and was denied an invitation last year shortly after her return from suspension.

"I would love to be there (on centre court) again, of course. And from a draw perspective, it's an anticipated seeding match if those two seeds went through, it's a match that maybe people anticipated," Sharapova said.

For her second match in Paris since 2015, she was erratic throughout, but her iron willpower helped her set up a meeting with Pliskova. She will, however, need to be more consistent if she is to beat the Czech, a semi-finalist here last year.


She failed to finish off a point at the net and Vekic counter-attacked to set up a break point in the first set, which the Russian saved to move 4-3 up before breaking her opponent's serve.

Vekic, however, broke straight back with a powerful service return.

Sharapova, who is on a quarter-final collision course with 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain, was waiting for her moment. It came in the 12th game when she forced the Croatian into a lung-busting rally, forcing her opponent to net a forehand and drop the opening set.

To break Vekic's rhythm from the baseline, Sharapova mixed it up with exquisite drop shots, but she made 31 unforced errors and dropped serve four times on Court One.

Vekic, the world number 50, offered stiff resistance at 5-4 in the second set but she bowed out on the fifth match point when Sharapova fired a sizzling forehand winner.

Next up is Pliskova, a big-serving player she beat in their only encounter in a Fed Cup match in 2015 on hard court.

"I don't expect extremely long rallies against an opponent like that," said Sharapova. "But sometimes it's not what it takes to win a match, and I think you have to kind of take care of your service games, and I have to serve better than I have been and take care of the return.

"But that side of the game, I feel, has improved in the last few months and I like the challenge of coming up against a really good server."

Her rightful place? Sharapova ready to be centre of attraction again

(5/31/18) Maria Sharapova admitted Thursday she cannot wait to return to Roland Garros's Court Philippe Chatrier for the first time in three years, hinting that the famed arena was the perfect stage for her talents.

Sharapova, the champion in Paris in 2012 and 2014 and runner-up in 2013, has played her first two matches at this year's French Open on Court Suzanne Lenglen and then Court One.

In marked contrast, her old rival Serena Williams has been scheduled twice on Chatrier.

"There is also Sharapova," the former world number one fired back at a reporter who only name-checked her opponent on Saturday, Czech sixth seed Karolina Pliskova ahead of the showpiece clash.

The Russian star last played on Chatrier in 2015 when she lost to Lucie Safarova in the quarter-finals.

She was serving a one-year doping ban in 2016 and was refused a wildcard by Roland Garros organisers last year.

"I would love to be there again, of course. And, yeah, I think from a draw perspective it's a match that maybe people anticipated," she said.

"It's been a few years since I have been back on the court; so if I do have a chance to play on it I will welcome it with open arms, and if it's another court then it will be great."

Although she was eagerly anticipating a return to the event's biggest stage, Sharapova still allowed herself a moment of whimsical reflection for the Court One bullring which will be demolished once the 2018 tournament is over.

"I like the intimate atmosphere of the court," added the 31-year-old.

"I mean, sometimes you have a lot of room on the court and visually from a perception point of view it makes you back up a little bit but I think I still did that today even though it is more intimate, which I shouldn't have done."

Sharapova, the 28th seed, made the third round on Thursday by seeing off Croatia's Donna Vekic 7-5, 6-4, wrapping up victory on a fifth match point.

It was a far easier afternoon than her first round when she came back from 0-3 in the final set against Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp.

If she gets past Pliskova, Sharapova could face Serena Williams in the last 16 but the Russian is thinking only of facing the big-serving Czech on Saturday.

"I don't expect any extremely long rallies against an opponent like that. But sometimes it's not what it takes to win a match," said Sharapova of a rival who fired 198 aces in her 2017 season.

Rain holds up Rafa, Sharapova at Roland Garros

(5/29/18) Two-time champion Maria Sharapova said she "loves the challenge" of playing Grand Slam tennis, after surviving a serious scare to claim a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp in her first French Open match since 2015 on Tuesday.

The Russian was refused a wildcard by organisers for the tournament last year, which took place shortly after her return from a 15-month doping suspension.

Sharapova, the 28th seed, will face Croatia's Donna Vekic in the second round.

She was staring down the barrel of falling at the first hurdle in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since the 2010 Australian Open when trailing 3-0 in the deciding set, but the former world number one dug deep and reeled off six straight games to edge into round two.

"I love the challenge of being in a Grand Slam draw and figuring out a way to win," Sharapova said after a match that was pushed back from Monday due to thunderstorms.

"I mean, throughout two weeks, you play against different opponents and different circumstances with weather, with a lot of waiting around like we did, you know, to sunshine.

"So there is a lot of ups and downs, a lot of different feelings, different matchups. You've just got to find a way how to handle your emotions and how you handle the matches physically.

"I thrive on that. I enjoy that challenge, trying to see how I can bring that out of me."

The five-time Grand Slam winner is only seeded at Roland Garros courtesy of a semi-final run in Rome earlier this month which dragged her back into the top 30 for the first time since her ban.

The 31-year-old took just 24 minutes to win the first set, but threw away a 3-1 lead in the second as world number 133 Hogenkamp forced a decider.

"I feel like I got very impatient in the second set for not many reasons," Sharapova added.

"She was becoming a little bit more consistent, and I think I lost a little bit of pace on my ball, but I finished out six straight games. I think if there is any way to turn that match around, it's that way."

Sharapova, champion in Paris in 2012 and 2014, could face a heavyweight showdown with Serena Williams in the last 16 should the pair both get that far.

Williams won her first Grand Slam match since the 2017 Australian Open after giving birth to her daughter, and beat Kristyna Pliskova on Court Philippe Chatrier while wearing a striking black catsuit.

"I did get a little glimpse, but I haven't seen too much of the match, but I think that's expected first Grand Slam back. Nike does a really good job of making statements," said Sharapova, who like Williams is sponsored by the clothing giants.

"The great thing about tennis is that you can, like, express your individuality and be different. Yeah, I love that about it."

Rain holds up Rafa, Sharapova at Roland Garros

(5/28/18) Heavy rain brought an early end to play on the second day of Roland Garros on Monday, forcing defending champion Rafael Nadal and two-time winner Maria Sharapova to return on Tuesday.

When the covers were drawn just before 2000 (1800 GMT), Nadal was 6-4, 6-3, 0-3 up on Italian lucky loser Simone Bolelli as he started his bid for an 11th French Open title.

Sharapova didn't even get on court for her opener against Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands.

Serena aside, Sharapova will fear no one at French: Evert

(5/25/18) Russian Maria Sharapova could run into old nemesis Serena Williams in the fourth round of the French Open but, the American aside, she will fear no one on her first appearance at the claycourt slam for three years.

The former world number one, twice a champion at Roland Garros despite an unnatural claycourt game, is seeded 28 after a rocky road back from a doping ban.

She was ineligible two years ago and last year French Open organizers declined to offer her a wildcard following her return to the Tour. Sharapova served a 15-month sanction for testing positive for heart drug meldonium after losing to Williams in the Australian Open quarter-finals in 2016.

The two grand slams she has played since resuming her career have resulted in fourth-round losses but having reunited with former coach Thomas Hogstedt last month, the five-times major winner is moving back in the right direction, according to Roland Garros great Chris Evert.

"She has a shot (at the title)," seven-times French Open champion Evert, an analyst for broadcaster ESPN, told Reuters.

"I see her moving better and the intensity is back. I see some drop shots. She is back with her old coach Thomas Hogstedt and she has won grand slams with him before.

"I see her getting better and better because she wants it and she is willing to work hard for it and it's still the most important thing in her life. In the last six weeks I see an improvement in her game."

The fact that no player has taken the game by storm while 23-times grand slam champion Williams took time off to have a baby, will further encourage Sharapova, according to Evert.

"Maria will look at it and see no one dominant. Serena Williams is the only player in the past who has been like a thorn in her side, but she feels mentally superior to most of the other and she feels she can win against them all."


Only Williams, unseeded and ranked 453 has a superior grand slam record to Sharapova in the women's draw.

Last year's champion Jelena Ostapenko, double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki and 2016 French Open winner Garbine Muguruza are all amongst the list of favorites.

But Sharapova, a semi-finalist in Rome last week, would not have a sleepless night about facing any of them.

"This is a title she has won twice and this is a surface that gives her a little more time to set up," Evert said.

"She knows she can win it and she knows she is mentally tougher than most of them. When you look at the players who are contenders, they have a few slams but mentally they have had some big wins but also some big losses.

"Aside from Serena she has the most experience and is mentally tougher. That's worth two games a set."

Sharapova trails Williams 19-2 on career head-to-head but leads top French Open top seed Simona Halep 7-2, second seed Wozniacki 6-4 and third seed Muguruza 3-0.

Serena could face Sharapova in 4th round at French Open

(5/25/18) Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova could meet in the fourth round of the French Open thanks to the draw on Thursday.

But a matchup between three-time champion Williams and two-time champion Sharapova is far from guaranteed.

Williams resumes her comeback after maternity leave following two consecutive losses in March. She will open against 70th-ranked Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

This will be Williams’ first Grand Slam event since giving birth to her daughter in September. She hasn’t played at a Grand Slam since winning the Australian Open in January 2017 while pregnant.

Ranked No. 453, Williams entered Roland Garros under the WTA’s protected ranking rule but has not been granted a seed by organizers. Without a seeding, Williams was drawn in the same quarter as Sharapova, who was seeded 28th.

While nobody really knows what to expect from Williams, Sharapova had a chance to fine-tune her clay-court game last week in Rome and made it to the semifinals beating reigning French Open Jelena Ostapenko and losing a three-setter to top-ranked Simona Halep

Halep will open against Alison Riske, and Ostapenko will take on Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine.

The hard-hitting Ostapenko, who last year became the first unseeded player to win the women’s title since 1933, was handed a tricky draw as she could face former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the second round.

The tournament starts on Sunday.

In the men’s draw, 10-time champion and overwhelming favourite Rafael Nadal will open against Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Nadal is arriving in Paris on the back of another impressive clay-court season. He is 19-1 on his favourite surface, having lost just one match in the Madrid quarterfinals this month against Dominic Thiem.

"Having enjoyed the success I had over the last couple of weeks helps to be here with a bit more confidence," Nadal said at the draw.

The seventh-seeded Thiem, who ended Nadal’s streaks on clay of 21 wins and 50 sets won, will face a qualifier in the first round. He is in second-seeded Alexander Zverev’s quarter and can’t meet Nadal before the final.

Former champion Novak Djokovic was drawn in the same half as Thiem and Zverev. He will open against a qualifier.

Sharapova seeks redemption on Roland Garros clay

(5/24/18) When Maria Sharapova last played the French Open in 2015, she did so as defending champion.

Denied a wildcard by Roland Garros organizers last year on her return from a 15-month doping ban, the Russian was dogged by injury and controversy as she tried to get her career back on track.

Now 31, it would have been understandable had the five-times grand slam winner hung up her rackets to focus on her ever expanding business empire.

Not Sharapova, one of the game's toughest competitors.

"That's why I still continue to do this, because I have that passion of figuring things out and getting it done, whether it's a tough day, or whether it's a great day," Sharapova said in a phone interview earlier this year.

Although Sharapova was the world's top-paid female athlete for more than a decade and has earned close to $300 million on and off the court according to FORBES, nothing comes close to competing for the sport's biggest prizes.

"You are very much in the moment," said Sharapova, a three-times finalist in Paris. "Your team just hands you over, literally on to the stage, onto your universe for the next hour, hour-and-a-half, two or three, and you have to find a way to deliver.

"Everything that you put into it previously, you have to pour out onto the court, every fear that you've faced before, you have to bring out onto the court. You have to be powerful, but yet you have to handle being vulnerable at moments when things don't go your way."


Having ended 2017 outside the top 50, Sharapova endured one of the worst periods of her career as she lost four straight matches.

In March, she ended a four-year spell with Dutchman Sven Groeneveld and brought back her former coach from Sweden, Thomas Hogstedt, with whom she won her first French Open title in 2012 as she completed the career grand slam.

Now, after strong performances in Madrid and Rome this month, Sharapova is back among the seeds and beginning to believe that she can win the title for a third time.

Finally fully fit, Sharapova reached the quarter-finals in Madrid and beat reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the semi-finals in Rome, a huge boost of confidence as she returns to the scene of her most successful grand slam.

After losing a close three-set match to world number one Simona Halep in Rome, Sharapova called her progress "a step in the right direction".

"After losing those matches, you still have to put yourself on the line and show up and deliver, and do it with authority," she told reporters at Rome's Foro Italico.

"What I'm most proud of is (that) I had a lot of opportunities in the last few weeks in Madrid and here to just back down, to let little things bother me. But I got through them.

"I set up real good situations for myself; a lot of court time and match play. All good things that I wanted."

True grit Sharapova back at French Open with point to prove

(5/22/18) There will be questions about suspensions, favouritism and rivalries, and fashion, parties and candy lines.

There will be accusations of slights -- real or imagined -- greeted either with a giggle, an icy stare or a pitch-perfect, withering put down.

It can only mean one thing -- Maria Sharapova is about to play in a Grand Slam event.

But not just any Grand Slam.

This is the French Open where she has won two of her five career majors but where, 12 months ago, Roland Garros chiefs took to the moral high ground.

From there, they told the Russian icon that she was not welcome, her recently-concluded 15-month doping ban considered too raw to allow her the convenience of a wildcard into the clay court showpiece.

Injury then ruled her out of Wimbledon before she made a stunning Grand Slam return at the US Open under the lights of Arthur Ashe Court in August.

"Behind this little black dress and the Swarovski crystals, there is a girl with a lot of grit and she's not going anywhere," said Sharapova after seeing off second seed Simona Halep in her New York opener.

It could just as well have been a riposte to Roland Garros three months earlier.

Back then the former world number one had seen her ranking slump to 173 as she started to rebuild a career which also doubles as a multi-million dollar brand empire.

Now, thanks to the characteristic cussedness that has served her well since her tennis odyssey began in Russia before being honed in Florida, the 31-year-old Sharapova is back in the top 30 and guaranteed a seeded place when the 2018 French Open starts on Sunday.

Only the very brave would write off the title chances of a player who was champion in 2012 and 2014, runner-up in 2013 and semi-finalist in 2011.

She is also hitting form at the right time.

Having endured a four-match losing streak for the first time since 2003, Sharapova arrives in the French capital on the back of a last-eight run in Madrid and semi-final spot in Rome where she took the first set off world number one Halep before drowning in a sea of errors.

- 'So excited' -

Reunited with former coach Thomas Hogstedt, her performance in Rome was her best run at such a level since the 2015 WTA Tour Finals.

"I like the way I'm competing and the way I feel out there. It's an inner feeling. I like the attitude that I'm playing with," said Sharapova, who added she was "going be so excited" to be heading back to Paris after "a tough period" in her life.

"I've had an incredible amount of memories there. Being in that environment, just even the practice and getting there on the first day, practising on centre court for the first time ... I love it.

"There's nothing that can replicate it. As long as I can continue to feel motivated by that moment, I'll keep loving it and playing there."

Fans and sponsors will be delighted to see Sharapova back on Court Philippe Chatrier, such is her pulling power.

Even when she was off tour in 2016, and saw her 11-year streak as the world's richest sportswoman end, she was still commercial gold.

According to Forbes magazine, Sharapova saw her income during her suspension slashed by around $8 million.

However, she still pulled in a tidy $21.9 million with only longtime rival Serena Williams able to boast a healthier bank balance.

Her appearance in Paris will still rankle with some of her rivals.

Last year, former golden girl Eugenie Bouchard described Sharapova as "a cheater" who should have been banned for life.

However, this week, former world number five Bouchard, a Wimbledon runner-up in 2014, is down at 167 in the rankings and having to play qualifiers at Roland Garros.

Halep outlasts Sharapova in break-heavy Rome semi

(5/19/18) World number one Simona Halep reached her first WTA Tour final since January at the Internazionali d'Italia on Saturday, defeating three-time former champion Maria Sharapova 4-6 6-1 6-4 in an erratic last-four clash.

Halep has retained her place at the top of the rankings this year despite repeated disappointments on the Tour but, ahead of the French Open, she is showing the form that took her to the Australian Open final, even if this match was far from comfortable.

The Romanian had to come from behind as Sharapova showed touches of real class yet failed to compensate for her tiring limbs after a tough run to the semis.

Halep has enjoyed a comparatively straightforward week, with crushing defeats of Naomi Osaka and Caroline Garcia separated by a walkover after a first-round bye, playing just four sets to Sharapova's 11 prior to this meeting.

And that kinder schedule eventually told, following an extraordinary clash in which neither player held serve until the seventh game of the opening set - a theme that lasted the duration.

Sharapova made nine unforced errors in the first three games as the pair refused to be separated until, finally, the former world number one held serve against the current incumbent, smashing a superb backhand down the line.

The power of Sharapova's returns allowed her to break again, briefly ceding control with another poor service game before wrapping up the set.

The 40th-ranked player continued to struggle with her serve in the second, though, and Halep belatedly found her feet, breaking in front and then holding for the first time.

Halep levelled the match after a further two breaks - a Sharapova double-fault concluding the set - before the errors continued into the third to leave the pair neck and neck, the top seed having failed to pull away.

The contest fittingly ended with a break and a mistake, though - Halep handed victory and celebrating wildly as she builds towards Roland Garros and perhaps a first major win.

Sharapova supports special Grand Slam seeding for old rival Serena

(5/18/18) Maria Sharapova says she supports a Grand Slam seeding for longtime rival Serena Williams as the American tries to rebuild her career after giving birth nine months ago.

The Russian, who reached the semi-finals of the Italian Open on Friday with a 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 7-5 defeat of reigning Roland Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko, showed a noticeably softer attitude towards the 36-year-old Williams with whom she has often endured a bitter, public rivalry.

Wimbledon officials are currently debating whether or not to award a wild card to the former world number one American who has won the grasscourt major seven times but is currently ranked 454th after playing only four tour matches since winning the Australian Open in 2017.

"It's a tough call, I would like to see that change," Sharapova, 31, said. "I think that would be nice."

The five-time Grand Slam winner said it took "such an incredible effort" for Williams to return to the court after pregnancy.

"For a woman to come back on tour, having a child (is great).

"It's just another whole dimension to the travel, to the experiences, to the emotions, to the physicality of every single day."

The Russian added: "Tennis is such a selfish sport. But I think when there's a child in your life, you lose a little bit of that because there's something that's so much more important."

Williams stands an overwhelming 19-2 in her head-to-head series against Sharapova with the Russian's only two victories coming in 2004.

Sharapova edges Ostapenko, to play Halep in Rome semis

(5/18/18) Former world number one Maria Sharapova stepped up her French Open preparations with a battling 6-7(6) 6-4 7-5 win over reigning Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko in the Italian Open quarter-finals on Friday.

Sharapova, 31, will play top seed and world number one Simona Halep in the semis after the Romanian crushed Caroline Garcia 6-2 6-3.

Sharapova produced one of her best performances of the season to overcome her Latvian opponent in a gripping contest lasting three hours and 10 minutes.

Fifth seed Ostapenko saved a set point before edging the opener in a tiebreak but failed to maintain her level in the second as Sharapova forced a decider.

The Russian missed two match points at 5-3, allowing Ostapenko to draw level after 10 games, but Sharapova was not to be denied as she booked a semi-final spot in Rome for the first time in three years.

"It's great to back at this stage," Sharapova said.

"My fans have been so loyal throughout the years and for me to be able to produce this kind of tennis again in front of them is very special."

Estonia's Anett Kontaveit knocked out world number two Caroline Wozniacki 6-3 6-1 to record her second consecutive win over a top-10 opponent.

Kontaveit, who overcame Venus Williams in the last 16, struck 23 winners and broke her Danish opponent's serve six times to wrap up victory in just over an hour.

The world number 26 set up a semi-final battle with defending champion Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, who defeated former world number one Angelique Kerber 6-4 6-4.

Sharapova has good 'inner feeling' ahead of French Open return

(5/18/18) Former French Open champion Maria Sharapova said Thursday she has a "good inner feeling" as she prepares for her Roland Garros return after a doping ban.

Sharapova's straight sets win over Australian Daria Gavrilova booked her a quarter-final berth at the Italian Open which should give the two-time Roland Garros winner a seeding for the French Open.

"It's a step in the right direction. It's obviously a goal to be seeded at events," said the 31-year-old.

"I don't think that takes away matches. You still have to be ready for tough first rounds and later rounds and whatever comes your way."

It was a first Masters quarter-final for Sharapova since she won in Rome in 2015. She was denied a wild-card entry last year to Roland Garros after making her comeback from a 15-month doping ban.

Sharapova's serve was broken four times by Gavrilova who had battled until after 2am the previous night, saving two match points against former French Open winner Garbine Muguruza.

But Sharapova broke the Australian's serve seven times, winning through on her third match point after 1hr and 38min.

She next plays reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko for the first time for a place in the final four of a tournament she has won three times.

The Latvian fifth seed dropped a set before getting past British number one Johanna Konta 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

"I Like the way I'm competing and the way I feel out there. It's an inner feeling. I like the attitude that I'm playing with," said five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova.

And she added she was "going be so excited" to be heading back to Paris after "a tough period" in her life.

"I've had an incredible amount of memories there, and I don't rate the amount of, like, happiness you get from winning a Slam.

"I think that first Roland Garros for me was one of the highlights of my career," said the 2012 and 2014 winner.

"Coming to Roland Garros having a few matches behind my back, that's helpful.

"Being in that environment, just even the practice and getting there on the first day, practicing on centre court for the first time ... I love it.

"There's nothing that can replicate it.

"As long as I can continue to feel motivated by that moment, I'll keep loving it and playing there."

Sharapova delight at popping the question to Nadal

(5/15/18) Russian star Maria Sharapova giggled with delight as she revealed how she plucked up the courage to pop the question and got to practise with Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open.

The two former world number ones hit balls together on the red clay of the Foro Italico where they are both multiple winners.

"I saw he was practising on the court right before me," explained Sharapova, after advancing to the second round on Tuesday past Australian Ashleigh Barty.

"And I said to my team 'wouldn't it be amazing if I just came up to Rafa and said 'would you hit a couple balls with me?'

"And they're like, yeah, what's wrong with that? And I was like, a lot of things. There's a lot of things wrong with just coming up to Rafa.

"They're like, no, you should. It's not like you're asking him to go on a date. And so I did.

"He probably thought I was really weird. I think he still thinks I'm really weird."

The Russian was overjoyed at being able to rally with the 16-time Grand Slam champion, tweeting: "Two minutes on court with the GOAT @RafaelNadal #BucketList Was so nervous."

In Tuesday's match played in rainy conditions, five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova needed two and a half hours to master 18th-ranked Barty 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in their first round game.

She next meets Slovak Dominika Cibulkova as she bids to recapture the title she won three times in 2011, 2012 and 2015.

"This tournament has been special in my career," said the 31-year-old, who received a wild-card entry last year as she made her comeback from a 15-month doping ban.

She retired injured from her second round match to end her hopes of qualifying on merit for Wimbledon's main draw after being denied a wild-card entry to Roland Garros.

"It's brought me a lot of great matches and a lot of match play toward the Grand Slam that we all look forward to playing.

"And usually it's the last tournament I play before Roland Garros. So, it is an important one," said two-time French Open winner Sharapova who reached the quarter-finals in Madrid last week.

"But, I've also had very tough moments here, as well. Last year was a very difficult situation to be in and going into that match.

"I'm just a little bit more relieved this year. I feel like I'm not thinking about things and just playing and not worrying about anything else. Which is nice."

Svitolina off the mark in Rome, Sharapova battles through rain

(5/15/18) Defending champion Elina Svitolina eased into the third round of the WTA Italian Open on Tuesday as three-time winner Maria Sharapova needed a marathon three sets to get past Australian Ashleigh Barty.

Svitolina, the fourth seed, received a first round bye and dropped just three games in a dominant 6-1, 6-2 victory over 35th-ranked Petra Martic.

The 23-year-old Ukrainian won the biggest clay court title of her career last year at the Foro Italico. And she continued where she left off despite the rainy conditions, needing just over an hour to peg back her Croatian rival.

By contrast, Sharapova needed two and a half hours to master 18th-ranked Barty 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in their first round match.

"It was tough, tough conditions," said 40th-ranked Sharapova, who reached the quarter-finals in Madrid last week. "It felt like I was playing three different matches.

"There was a long wait and the way the court played, the way she played, the shadows, the little bit of a breeze out there. So, a lot going on.

"I think it was a really good way to end the match, to get that win."

Sharapova's victory, her 34th on clay in the Italian capital, came in her first meeting with Barty, who was making her Rome debut.

Barty pushed the five-time Grand Slam winner to a third set as she did against Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki last week in Madrid.

The game swung the Russian's direction in the final set when Sharapova held serve in a crucial 1-1 game from 0-40 down after having failed to convert three break points in the previous game.

Barty, ranked 18, saved two match points in the final game against the 2011, 2012 and 2015 winner but two unforced errors in a row handed Sharapova a second round berth.

Sharapova next meets Dominika Cibulkova in the second round. The pair have not played each other since the Slovak won in the fourth round of the 2014 Australian Open on her way to the final.

"It's been a while since I played her, she's always been a tough opponent especially on clay," said the Russian of the Slovak who leads 2-1 in clay court meetings.

Fifth seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia advanced to the third round past China's Zhang Shuai 6-2, 7-5.

Svetlana Kuznetsova made light work of Slovenian Polona Hercog 6-2, 6-4 in her first round match as the Russian warms up for the French Open which she won in 2009.

But there were uncontrollable tears for France's Kristina Mladenovic as dizziness forced her to call it a day while trailing Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 3-0.

- Shapovalov shines again -

In the men's event, Belgian ninth seed David Goffin was given a scare after leading 5-1 in the first set before losing six games in a row and dropping the first set to home hope Marco Cecchinato.

The Masters Open finalist got back on track by winning the next two 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the second round.

And Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov battled past Czech veteran Tomas Berdych 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), a week after becoming the youngest semi-finalist in Madrid.

The 19-year-old will become the new Canadian number one next week in place of Milos Raonic. "I'm a little bit in shock," he said. "It's crazy that it's come so early."

After a sloppy start Shapovalov found his feet in the second set breaking for a 3-1 advantage after Berdych hit a forehand into the net.

The world number 29 clinched the set, on his third set point of a seven-minute game at 5-3, when Berdych netted a crosscourt backhand.

Berdych came within two points of victory in the ninth game, and Shapovalov raced to the first four points of the tie-break, holding on despite Berdych coming back dangerously for 5/5.

Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur took 64 minutes to get past Spain's Fernando Verdasco to meet seven-time winner Rafael Nadal in the second round.

The rain returned in the evening with the match between Croatian fourth seed Marin Cilic and American Ryan Harrison suspended with the first set tiebreak 6-6 (3/3) after 50 minutes play.

Work still to do, says toiling Sharapova

(5/10/18) Maria Sharapova's battle to rediscover her best form continued to be an uphill one as she came up short against Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens in the Madrid Open quarter-finals on Thursday.

The Russian former world number one has shown only flashes of the play that has earned her five grand slam titles since returning from a doping ban last year.

She arrived in Madrid on the back of three consecutive first-round defeats and while three wins on the Spanish clay hinted at better things the 31-year-old said there is still a way to go as she gears up for Roland Garros.

Despite a strong start 2014 Madrid champion Sharapova wilted under the powerful hitting from unseeded Bertens, losing 4-6 6-2 6-3.

"I look at these types of matches, I see a lot of things I should be better at, I should improve at," Sharapova, languishing down at 52 in the rankings, told reporters.

"I think it's a combination of, yes, taking the positives, but also being a little tough on yourself and expecting a little bit more from yourself.

"You can't keep giving yourself a pat on the back. It was great to get those wins against those few players. But there's a reason I came up short today.

"I go back to the drawing board and start over again."

Sharapova looks unlikely to be seeded on her return to the French Open where she has won the title twice.

Last year organizers declined to give her a wildcard after she returned from a 15-month doping ban for testing positive for heart drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

She has managed only one title since returning and split with long-time coach Sven Groeneveld after losing in the first round at Indian Wells in March.

She said she was still driven to improve and did not regret the split with Groeneveld.

"Post Indian Wells was a tough few weeks for me, I think I don't know many people that would be like, 'Let's keep going'," she said. "It was really tough. I was willing to make changes, willing to get back out there, willing to put in the work.

"I think that attitude certainly helps, that perspective on things. When you try to make the right decisions for yourself in a very selfish sport, maybe somehow in the end it works out."

Sharapova blasts into Madrid quarter-finals

(5/8/18) Maria Sharapova reached the Madrid Open quarter-finals on Wednesday with an impressive 6-3, 6-4 demolition of France's Kristina Mladenovic.

Former world number one Sharapova fired 30 winners and nine aces in her victory which gave her a last-eight clash with Dutch player Kiki Bertens who knocked out world number two Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-2.

Mladenovic, the world number 22, was runner-up in Madrid last year but she had no answer to the firepower of Sharapova who is set to at least return to the top 40 next week.

Wozniacki passes Barty test in Madrid, Sharapova advances

(5/8/18) World number two Caroline Wozniacki survived a scare from Ashleigh Barty on Monday, edging the Australian 6-2 4-6 6-4 to reach the last-16 of the Madrid Open.

Wozniacki found herself on the brink of defeat as she trailed 4-2 in the final set, but the Dane roared back to claim the last four games to seal the victory.

The 22-year-old Barty was ultimately let down by her groundstrokes in crucial stages of decider as she finished with 54 unforced errors for the match.

Wozniacki will next face former French Open semi-finalist Kiki Bertens, who stunned 15th seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-1 6-4 in the second round.

Former world number one Maria Sharapova's revival on clay is gathering pace as she overcame a tense opening set to beat Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu 7-5 6-1.

The 31-year-old Russian, who entered the tournament on the back of four consecutive defeats, rallied from 3-1 down before snatching the opening set with a ferocious forehand.

With momentum on her side, Sharapova won 20 of the last 22 points to secure a spot in the last-16.

"Although I didn't play at my best level in the first set, I pulled it through," the five-time grand slam champion told a news conference.

"I played some really tough points. I hung in there especially in that final game. Then I really set up a good opportunity for me to step up.

"I thought I did a really good job of that, especially in the last six games. I was very aggressive, played deep, returned a lot better. That will certainly help me moving forward."

Unseeded Sharapova will next face last year's finalist Kristina Mladenovic, who edged China's Zhang Shuai 6-4 4-6 6-3.

Sharapova rediscovers winning form on Madrid clay

(5/6/18) Maria Sharapova won for the first time since the Australian Open as she beat Mihaela Buzarnescu, 6-4, 6-1, on Sunday in the Madrid Open.

The Russian five-time Grand Slam champion has been struggling with an arm injury, losing her last four matches, crashing out in the first round in Stuttgart last week.

In-form Romanian Buzarnescu reached the Prague Open final last week, but unseeded Sharapova, who took the title in Madrid in 2014, dominated this first round meeting.

Sharapova jumped to a 5-2 lead in the first set but Buzarnescu briefly showed some resistance by winning the next two games.

The Russian seized the momentum by breaking again to clinch the set and dropped only one more game as she won in 82 minutes to set up a second-round match with another Romanian, Irina-Camelia Begu, who upset No.5 seed Jelena Ostapenko the evening before.

In another Romanian-Russian clash top seed Simona Halep crushed Ekaterina Makarova 6-1, 6-0, for a 13th straight victory in the tournament.

"I think it was a great match. I played really well. Of course, maybe she didn't play her best, but she's always tough to play against," Halep said.

Halep has been having fitness issues with her legs and lost to CoCo Vandeweghe in the second round on the Stuttgart clay last week.

"I don't have problems any more. I had a lot of treatment. I took care of my leg," Halep said. "It was actually coming from the back. I always have little issues with my back, so I know how to treat it."

A third Romanian, Sorana Cirstea also reached the second round by beating Czech Katerina Siniakova, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

"All the girls from Romania are really strong. They train a lot. They play really well, if they are confident," Halep said.

There was a mild upset in the men's tournament, where unseeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet knocked out Czech 14th seed Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-2.

Canadian Denis Shapovalov joined Gasquet in the second round after seeing off American Tennys Sandgren 6-1, 6-4.

Sharapova eyes more grand slam glory

(4/24/18) Maria Sharapova will not settle for lower-tier titles after making her comeback last year and the former world number one is determined to add to her five grand slam crowns.

The 31-year-old Russian returned from a 15-month doping ban at the Stuttgart Grand Prix last April and Sharapova has since won one title, the Tianjin Open, after inconsistent performances and injury problems.

She is back in Stuttgart this year and plays Caroline Garcia in the first round later on Tuesday.

"When you've experienced grand slam victories, it's absolutely natural to have that goal in your mind," Sharapova told CNN.

"It would be silly for me to say my goal for this year is to win a lower-tier tournament because I strive to be on the big stage and to win on the big stage.

"I've experienced it, and I know what it's like and I want that feeling again. I continue to work for that."

Sharapova, who won her last grand slam title at the 2014 French Open, has no plans to retire.

"I haven't set a time table for myself, but I've always said that I would do it on my own terms... " she said.

"I'd love to play in another Olympics, but I don't know if that will happen and at this point in 2018, I don't really want to know. I want to keep going and I want to keep working and see where that takes me."

Sharapova stunned by Garcia in Stuttgart first round

(4/24/18) Maria Sharapova crashed out in the opening round of the Stuttgart Grand Prix on Tuesday as French sixth seed Caroline Garcia staged a fightback to win 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4.

"This was not the result that I wanted, but I can take a lot out of this match," Sharapova said. "I've not competed for a few weeks, but I played pretty solid and did all of the right things.

"I served well in the first set but had a few doubles at the wrong time. Physically, I felt quite strong."

The five-time Grand Slam champion, who turned 31 last week, looked to be in control as she made just two unforced errors in winning the opening set.

But Garcia, who had never beaten the Russian in four previous meetings -- they last played in Madrid three years ago -- rallied in the second set as she came from 4-2 down and and levelled the contest in a tie-break.

The 41st-ranked Sharapova returned to tennis in Stuttgart exactly a year ago after finishing a 15-month doping ban for meldonium and reached the semi-finals.

She claimed an early break in the third set, but lost it in the third game as Garcia tightened the screw on the crowd favourite.

Sharapova was broken to trail 4-5 and put her opponent under momentary pressure at 0-30 as Garcia tried to serve out the win.

But the world number seven succeeded on her second match point as Sharapova struck a return wide to exit after two and three-quarter hours of battle on the indoor clay court.

Sharapova said her game might have been compromised by weeks of forearm injury recovery after last playing in Indian Wells six weeks ago.

"Overall I didn't react as well as I could against a server like her, she got lot of free points," Sharapova said.

"I didn't get enough balls back. We were both playing fast, and aggressive.

"I need to be smarter in the winning position."

Garcia will next take on Ukrainian qualifier Marta Kostyuk who scored a 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Antonia Lottner.

The youngster, who doesn't turn 16 until just before the start of Wimbledon, was joined in round two by Czech fifth seed Karolina Pliskova, who beat Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens 6-2, 6-2.

Kostyuk made a breakthrough with a surprise third-round showing at the Australian Open as a qualifier, finally losing to compatriot Elina Svitolina.

World number 158 Kostyuk has since claimed a second-tier title in Burnie, Australia and reached a final in Zhuhai, China in March.

Her defeat of Lottner, ranked 155th, took just under 90 minutes, with the teenager breaking four times while losing serve only once.

Pliskova, who has been on site for a week training, is playing Stuttgart for the third consecutive year, after losing to eventual champion Laura Siegemund in the 2017 quarter-finals.

"I felt the best today and for sure it was not her best match but that was not much to do with me," Pliskova said.

"The serve was good and I got a lot of free points, my shots were working -- there was no problem from my side today."

The Czech dominated Bertens, with the winner firing six aces and breaking four times.

Reigning champion Laura Siegemund beat Barbora Strycova 6-4, 6-3, but Marketa Vondrousova did get one over the Germans for the Czechs with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Julia Goerges.

Sharapova not short on desire despite struggles

(4/24/18) Maria Sharapova has not set a timetable for retirement and still has the desire to succeed on the big stage despite having struggled since her comeback from suspension.

The five-time grand slam champion was banned in March 2016 after testing positive for meldonium. She did not return to the court until April last year and has found form and fitness hard to come by.

Though Sharapova won the Tianjin Open in October, she has been dogged by injuries in 2018, winning only five matches across four events.

Her ambition has not been checked by her results and injury issues, though, with the 31-year-old Sharapova telling CNN: "I didn't put any expectations on myself coming back after the suspension.

"Because missing that period of time at this age and after going through different things in my life, whether it's injury or surgery, just being away from the sport, even though you are resting your body and even though I was resting things that were hurting before, you can never replicate what you do in a match environment.

"I am still working through that, and I am still getting that back, and that takes a while.

"In terms of where my mind is, my motivation and the desire that I have for what I continue now when I am on centre court, when I am away from the court and I have moments where my body feels like it's not where it should be, where I am not healthy, or where it is just a day where I feel like being somewhere else, I still get through it, and I find a way to get through it and to me, that's the best sign."

On the possibility of retirement, she added: "I haven't set a timetable for myself, but I've always said that I would do it on my own terms.

"And when I say 'on my own terms', so many questions are goal-oriented. You start a season and it's like what's your goal?

"When you've experienced grand slam victories, it's absolutely natural to have that goal in your mind.

"It would be silly for me to say my goal for this year is to win a lower-tier tournament because I strive to be on the big stage and to win on the big stage.

"I've experienced it, and I know what it's like and I want that feeling again. I continue to work for that."

Sharapova faces Caroline Garcia in the first round of the Stuttgart Open on Tuesday.

Sharapova to make grasscourt return in Birmingham

(4/18/18) Former world number one Maria Sharapova will compete at the Birmingham Classic grasscourt event in the lead-up to Wimbledon, Britain's Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) announced on Wednesday.

The June 18-24 tournament is set to be the Russian's first on grass since she reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2015.

Sharapova, who won the Birmingham title in 2004 and 2005, was granted a wildcard at the event last year before a thigh injury forced her to skip the grasscourt season.

The five-time grand slam winner has failed to rediscover her best form after returning from a doping ban last year and split with coach Sven Groeneveld following a first-round exit at the BNP Paribas Open last month.

The defeat in California was the first time Sharapova had lost three consecutive matches since 2003 and the Russian has since withdrawn from the Miami Open with a forearm injury.

The 30-year-old joins a strong field in Birmingham, including Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain, British number one Johanna Konta and Czech Petra Kvitova, who lifted the trophy at the Edgbaston Priory Club last year.

"Maria is one of the biggest stars of her generation and a former champion in Birmingham, so it will be great to see her back on the grass courts of the Edgbaston Priory Club," tournament director Patrick Hughesman said in a statement.

"This year's line-up of players is already incredibly strong and we could get more big names signing up in the next couple of weeks."

Sharapova commits to play in new Bay Area tour event

(4/17/18) Maria Sharapova has committed to play in the Bay Area this summer as the former Stanford WTA stop moves to San Jose State University.

The five-time Grand Slam champion will play in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic from July 30 to. Aug. 5, the tournament announced Monday. It has a 28-player singles draw.

This will be the first year of the event at San Jose State after the former Bank of the West Classic was held at Stanford.

After a first-round win last year, former world No. 1 Sharapova withdrew from the 2017 tournament at Stanford with soreness in her left arm. That came after she dealt with a left thigh injury following her April 2017 return from a 15-month doping ban.

Maria Sharapova withdraws from Miami with forearm injury

(3/17/18) Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from the Miami Open that begins next week because of a left forearm injury.

Sharapova announced the decision on Friday. She’ll be replaced in the main draw by American Jennifer Brady.

Sharapova lost in the first round at Indian Wells last week and in the third round of the Australian Open in January. She returned to the tour last year after a 15-month doping ban.

The women’s field includes eight-time Key Biscayne champion Serena Williams and No. 1-ranked Simona Halep. The men’s field includes defending champion Roger Federer and six-time Key Biscayne champ Novak Djokovic.

Struggling Sharapova splits with coach

(3/9/18) Former world number one Maria Sharapova said on Friday she had split with her coach Sven Groeneveld, two days after losing a third consecutive match for the first time since 2003.

The news comes after Sharapova, who said the decision to end their four-year partnership was "mutually agreed", was beaten by 44th-ranked Naomi Osaka in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open in California on Wednesday.

After losing in the third round of the Australian Open to Angelique Kerber she was then beaten in the first round of the Qatar Open by Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu.

She pulled out of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Sharapova has struggled to recapture top form since her 15-month ban for taking the banned drug meldonium ended last April.

"After four successful and challenging years of collaboration together, I would like to thank Sven for his incredible loyalty, work ethic and most importantly the friendship that we have formed that will go beyond this working partnership," Sharapova said in a statement on her website.

"Although we have mutually agreed to part ways during this time, I have been incredibly fortunate to have a team leader like him in my corner for the past four years."

Russian Sharapova won seven titles during her time with Groeneveld, most notably the 2014 French Open.

A two-time champion at Indian Wells, Sharapova, currently ranked 41st in the world, won the Tianjin Open in October for her first triumph since returning to the WTA Tour, but has not come close to challenging for a tournament victory since.

"Maria has been one of the most hardworking and professional players I have ever worked with," Groeneveld said.

"Her strength and fighting spirit will continue to be a force to reckon with and I have the deepest respect for her as a player and person.”

Sharapova upset by Osaka in 1st round at Indian Wells

(3/8/18) Maria Sharapova's return to the BNP Paribas Open for the first time in three years ended in a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Naomi Osaka of Japan on Wednesday night.

Sharapova's ranking of No. 41 in the world forced her to play a first-round match in the tournament she has won twice.

She trailed 4-1 in the first set before holding serve at 4-all. But Osaka held to go up 5-4 and broke Sharapova on a double fault to close out the set.

Ranked 44th in the world, Osaka took a 4-2 lead in the second set. Sharapova broke to tie it 4-all before Osaka won the final two games to end the 1 1/2-hour match.

Sam Stosur overcame a slow start to beat American Lauren Davis 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Two American teenagers advanced to the second round.

Amanda Anisimova defeated 94th-ranked Pauline Parmentier 6-2, 6-2 for her first WTA Tour victory. The 16-year-old Anisimova, who earned a wild card into the main draw, is the U.S. Open junior champion.

Caroline Dolehide, a 19-year-old wild card, fired 11 aces in outlasting 78th-ranked Shelby Rogers, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3 in 2 1/2 hours.

In other matches on the first day of the two-week tournament, Belinda Bencic saved a match point in beating Timea Babos, 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4), while wild card Genie Bouchard lost to qualifier Sachia Vickery, 6-3, 6-4.

Serena Williams returns to the tour for the first time in 14 months Thursday when she plays a first-round match.

Injured Maria Sharapova pulls out of Dubai

(2/16/18) Maria Sharapova has pulled out of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

No official reason has been provided for the Russian's withdrawal, although reports suggest the five-time grand slam champion has been struggling with pain in her forearms.

Sharapova was beaten in the first round of the Qatar Open by qualifier Monica Niculescu on Monday and will now miss out next week in Dubai.

American Madison Keys will also sit it out due to illness, but French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko has joined the field.

"Unfortunately, both Maria Sharapova and Madison Keys have regretfully had to withdraw from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships due to injury and illness," tournament director Salah Tahlak said, via a news release.

"We are sorry that neither Maria nor Madison will be able to play in Dubai, but we still have one of the strongest fields ever assembled for the WTA event.

"Maria said that she is very sorry she cannot be here and hopes to come back next year. We wish her and Madison a speedy recovery."

Maria Sharapova crashes out in Qatar Open first round

(2/14/18) Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova suffered a shock defeat in the first round of the Qatar Open on Monday, dumped out in three sets by outsider Monica Niculescu.

The Romanian, ranked number 92 in the world, 51 places behind the Russian, won 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. In a match lasting more than two and a half hours, Sharapova hit 52 unforced errors as opposed to just 17 from Niculescu. In blustery conditions, Sharapova also struggled to get to grips with the 30-year-old Niculescu's distinctive style, which relies heavily on a sliced forehand.

The former world number one, twice a winner in Doha, had been given a wildcard into the draw and was one the tournament's major attractions. "I did a good job of winning the longer rallies, even though that's not really what I wanted to get myself into," said Sharapova afterwards. "So, physically I felt good. I just got pretty passive in the end and starting making too many errors."

It was the 30-year-old's first appearance in Doha since 2013 and her first match since losing to Angelique Kerber in the third round of the Australian Open last month. Sharapova returned to tennis last April after completing a 15-month ban for failing a drug test. A jubilant Niculescu described it afterwards as "a very good win" as well as "a tough match".

She added: "I love it how I play and I like to be unique and I think my slice forehand is a weapon. "And when I feel good on the court then I play relaxed, I can be good and can be dangerous." Niculescu's reward is to play either Magdalena Rybarikova or wildcard Fatma Al-Nabhani in the next round.

Nine of the top ten women's players are competing in Doha this week, but arguably Sharapova was the biggest attraction. Her defeat is unlikely to please organisers after the men's tournament in Qatar last month was decimated of big name stars through injury. The competition could see a repeat of the Australian Open final as the world's new number one Carolina Wozniacki, and the woman she beat in Melbourne, Simona Halep, are seeded one and two in Doha. In another Romanian versus Russian clash, Halep will start her tournament on Tuesday, playing against Muscovite, Ekaterina Makarova, a former world number eight. Also through on Monday was world number 30 Dominika Cibulkova, who beat Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the world number 22, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4.

Kerber beats Sharapova to reach 4th round of Australian Open

(1/21/18) Angelique Kerber is on her own in an elite club at the Australian Open.

The 2016 champion routed Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 in a third-round win that showcased her credentials as a title contender and ensured she’ll be the only Grand Slam champion still playing in the second week in the women’s draw.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were almost as ruthless in their straight-sets wins Saturday night, which is hardly surprising for two players with a combined 31 Grand Slam titles. As well, it was Federer’s 90th match win at Melbourne Park.

Women’s No. 1 Simona Halep took a longer route — equaling a mark in Melbourne for endurance but signalling, perhaps, that she’s closer to a Grand Slam breakthrough.

Sharapova was back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2016, when a failed doping test led to a 15-month ban from tennis.

After two comfortable wins the five-time major winner was growing in confidence, but she had no answers for Kerber, who is on a 12-match winning streak in a kind of comeback of her own after a sliding down the rankings last year.

"Of course is quite a big match. I mean, Maria is a champion. She’s always dangerous, especially at the Grand Slams," Kerber said. "I was really trying to not think about everything around, about against who I’m playing.

"I learned a lot from the last 12, 24 months. I had a great 2016 and last year was a little tougher."

Kerber’s year-end ranking dropped from No. 1 in 2016 to 21 last year, when she failed to defend her Australian or U.S. Open titles. "Anybody who knows me knows I never give up."

Sharapova said Kerber was the more aggressive on court and took more risks.

"A lot of things I need to get better at and improve on," she said. "Today was not enough (but) … looking at the overall picture, there’s a lot to build from."

The Kerber-Sharapova match, billed as the showdown of the round, was over quickly. That was in contract to Halep’s 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 win in 3 hours and 45 minutes over American Lauren Davis.

The third set took 2 hours, 22 minutes. Halep wasted chances to serve for the match in the ninth, 11th and 15th games, then had to save three match points in the 22nd. There were 11 service breaks and two medical timeouts — for Davis to get treatment on both feet — before Halep converted on her first match point.

"I never played the third set so long, so I’m really happy I could stay and win it. I’m almost dead," Halep said of the match which equaled Chanda Rubin’s win over Arantxa Shanchez Vicario in 1996 — also 48 games — for the Australian Open record in terms of most games.

"I just feel that my muscles are gone," said Halep, who badly twisted her left ankle in the first round. "My ankle is, I don’t know how it is because I don’t feel it anymore!"

Halep will next play Naomi Osaka, who beat 18th-seeded Ash Barty 6-4, 6-2. No. 20 Barbora Strycova beat U.S. qualifier Bernarda Pera 6-2, 6-2, leaving U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys as the only American woman to reach the fourth round.

Keys advanced 6-3, 6-4 over Ana Bogdan and will next play No. 8 Caroline Garcia. Sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat No. 29 Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 7-5.

Kerber’s next match is against Hsieh Su-wei, who followed up her win over Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza with a 6-2, 7-5 win against No. 26 Agnieszka Radwanska to return to the fourth round at Melbourne Park for the first time in a decade.

Six-time Australian Open champion Djokovic continued his comeback from six months out with an injured right elbow, beating No. 21 Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.

"I obviously have to be more humble this time with my expectations because I haven’t played for six months," said the 14th-seeded Djokovic, who played down the medical time out he took to receive a massage on his back and upper legs as just the tribulations of returning to the tour.

Federer entered the Australian Open last year under similar circumstances, coming off an extended break for a knee injury, and went on to win the title. His defence moved through another round with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 win over No. 29 Richard Gasquet.

"Expectations are different," this year, Federer said. "I’m coming in very fit, very well equipped knowing five sets is not an issue. Don’t know if (winning) is going to happen this year, but so far, so good."

Tomas Berdych beat 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets and fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem beat Adrian Mannarino to set up a match against Tennys Sandgren.

Djokovic will next face Hyeon Chung, who took out a Zverev for the second time this week. Chung beat fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev 5-7, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 six days after a win over No. 32 Mischa Zverev.

Another loss at a major had the highly-touted Zverev admitting he may have a problem. He’s won five tour-level titles, but never gone beyond the fourth round at a major.

"I have some figuring out to do, what happens to me in deciding moments in Grand Slam," he said.

Kerber revival meets Sharapova roadblock as Melbourne cools

(1/19/18) Angelique Kerber's recent revival faces its toughest test in the shape of Maria Sharapova when the only two former Australian Open champions in the women's draw clash in round three on Saturday.

A cool front broke the grip of the high temperatures ahead of day six of the championships but there should still be plenty of heat out on court as the players battle for the remaining spots in the fourth round.

Defending men's champion Roger Federer's will look to continue his imperious advance through the draw when he meets Frenchman Richard Gasquet, while six-times champion Novak Djokovic and young gun Alexander Zverev are also in action.

World number one Simona Halep looks to forge further ahead into a draw increasing devoid of seeds when she meets American Lauren Davies but there is no doubting the top women's match of the day.

Sharapova, who won the Melbourne Park title as a 20-year-old in 2008, missed last year's tournament because of a 15-month doping ban and is still ranked a lowly 48th in the world as she continues her comeback.

Lefthander Kerber has plummeted down the rankings from world number to 16th on the back of a year of good old fashioned poor form but has rallied with seven straight wins to start 2018.

Kerber, who joined Sharapova in the 30-something club on Thursday, beat absent reigning champion Serena Williams to win the 2016 Australian Open and is a formidable opponent when at her best.

"I look forward to these matches. I want to be playing against opponents that are former grand slam champions," Russian Sharapova said.

"She's had success here. She's had success playing out here in these conditions on these courts. I want to see where I am on that level."

Their last three meetings have gone to three sets and Kerber is expecting another tight affair.

"I'm looking forward to playing against her," the German said. "This is the matches I'm looking forward to have, especially at the beginning of the year.

"I had a lot in the last few weeks. I will try to continue my run and playing good like I played also here like the last two matches."

Factbox: Maria Sharapova v Angelique Kerber

(1/19/18) A look at the records of Russia's Maria Sharapova and German Angelique Kerber before their third round match at the Australian Open on Saturday (prefix number denotes seeding).


Age: 30

WTA ranking: 48 (Highest ranking: 1)

Grand slam titles: 5 (Australian Open 2008; French Open 2012, 2014; Wimbledon 2004; U.S. Open 2006)

2017 Australian Open performance: Did not play

Best Australian Open performance: Winner 2008

2017 WTA win-loss record: 16-7

Former champion Sharapova has continued her strong start to the season and recorded commanding wins over German Tatjana Maria and Latvian Anastasija Sevastova in the opening two rounds.

The Russian has lost to Kerber in their last two meetings but has the overall advantage, having ousted the German on four previous occasions.

Sharapova has progressed to the fourth round of the Australian Open in each of her six appearances since 2011.


Age: 30

WTA ranking: 16 (Highest ranking: 1)

Grand slam titles: 2 (Australian Open 2016; U.S. Open 2016)

2017 Australian Open performance: Fourth round

Best Australian Open performance: Winner 2016

2017 WTA win-loss record: 28-23

Kerber's quest to move on from an underwhelming 2017 season has got off to a great start with the German marching to the Sydney International title this month.

The 30-year-old started her Australian Open campaign with a dominant win over compatriot Anna-Lena Friedsam and marked her birthday with a victory over Croatian Donna Vekic in their second round match.

HEAD-TO-HEAD (Sharapova 4 - Kerber 3)

April 2015 - Kerber d Sharapova 2-6 7-5 6-1 (Stuttgart, clay)

July 2014 - Kerber d Sharapova 7-6(4) 4-6 6-4 (Wimbledon, grass)

April 2013 - Sharapova d Kerber 6-3 2-6 7-5 (Stuttgart, clay)

Oct. 2012 - Sharapova d Kerber 6-0 3-0 Retired (Beijing, outdoor hard)

May 2012 - Sharapova d Kerber 6-3 6-4 (Rome, clay)

June 2012 - Kerber d Sharapova 6-4 6-4 (Paris, hard)

Jan. 2012 - Sharapova d Kerber 6-1 6-2 (Melbourne, outdoor hard)

Sharapova cranks up Australian Open title charge on day four

(1/18/18) Maria Sharapova laid down her Australian Open title credentials on a scorching hot Melbourne day on Thursday, with Caroline Garcia and fellow veteran Agnieszka Radwanksa joining her in the third round.

With the temperatures heading towards an energy-sapping 39 Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) and ice-towels in use, the Russian drawcard worked hard to get off court early against Anastasija Sevastova.

It was the Latvian 14th seed who ended her Grand Slam comeback in the last 16 of the US Open in 2017 as she returned from a drug ban. But not this time.

Sharapova was unstoppable in racing through the first set 6-1 before a battle in the second to prevail 7-6 (7/4), proving she must again be taken seriously.

"You know, it was a warm day. I did my job in two sets against someone that's been troubling in the past for me," she said afterwards.

"So third round of the Australian Open. I think I deserve to smile out there after that victory."

Being unseeded means she has her work cut out to reach another final, with a host of hurdles in her way.

Next up could be in-form 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, who plays Donna Vekic later and is starting to show glimpses of her best again after a miserable last year.

Eighth seed Garcia also stayed in the title hunt, but she found it hard going against Czech teen Marketa Vondrousova who pushed her to three gruelling sets.

The Frenchwoman, who had a breakout year in 2017, winning two titles, eventually got over the line 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 8-6 in almost two-and-a-half hours.

"My feet are burning," she said. "But we know it's like this in Australia -- the next day it can be freezing."

Two-time tournament semi-finalist Radwanksa, who has slid down the rankings and is only seeded 26, continued her under-the-radar progress with a three set win over Lesia Tsurenko.

She could potentially face third seed Garbine Muguruza next, who is still struggling with a right thigh problem and tests it against Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei.

British hope Johanna Konta is no longer in contention after she was bundled out by American "lucky loser" Bernarda Pera.

Sydney-born Konta, a quarter-finalist last year, was no match for American, who is only in the main draw after a player pulled out before the Grand Slam began, as she fell 6-4, 7-5.

Sharapova gets patience test with Melbourne set to sizzle

(1/17/18) Maria Sharapova returns to Rod Laver Arena for the first time since her drug ban for a second round match against Anastasija Sevastova on Thursday as players, officials and fans alike prepare for sweltering heat at the Australian Open.

The former world number one, who missed last year's tournament because of her ban for the use of a banned substance, takes on the Latvian 14th seed in the first match on the main showcourt so should escape the worst of the heat.

Temperatures are forecast to reach 40 degrees Celsius on Thursday and Friday but it is those on the more exposed outer courts who usually suffer most during the annual scorcher at Melbourne Park.

Sharapova lost a fourth round match in three sets to Sevastova on her return to grand slam tennis at the U.S. Open last year but got a measure of revenge in another tight clash at the China Open.

Australian Open champion a decade ago, Sharapova said she would not be looking to race through their third match in five months.

"It's not an easy match, not an easy match for anyone, especially for an aggressive player like I am," she said.

"You know, she's an opponent that tests my patience, and I'm willing to be there and out there for as long as it takes."

Another former champion, Novak Djokovic, is also likely to have his patience tested in his second match on the same court later in the day with mercurial Frenchman Gael Monfils having made something of a speciality of producing the unexpected.

Although six-times Melbourne champion Djokovic has won all 14 of their meetings at the elite level, his near contemporary is sure to fully test the fitness of the elbow that kept the Serbian on the sidelines for the second half of last year.

The meeting between Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard might bring a little frost to a hot day as the top seed and world number one said last year she did not talk to the Canadian, who beat her in the 2014 Wimbledon semi-finals.

Halep, who turned her ankle in her opening victory over local Destanee Aiava on Tuesday, will face Bouchard in the evening on Margaret Court Arena before Stan Wawrinka continues his comeback against Tennys Sandgren.

Wawrinka's fellow Swiss Roger Federer resumes his title defence against German Jan-Lennard Struff with top five seeds Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem also in action on day four.

Top seed Rafa Nadal, who will play his third round match against Bosnian 28th seed Damir Dzumhur on another scorcher on Friday, urged organizers close the roofs of the showcourts if the heat became extreme, to preserve players and fans.

"I think it's a health issue ... When it's too much, (it) becomes dangerous for the health," he said.

"I would not like to see here retirements. Conditions that create a bad show for the crowd. The crowd is suffering, too, there."

Former champs Sharapova, Kerber into 2nd round in Australia

(1/15/18) Maria Sharapova barely missed a beat in her first match back at the Australian Open since a failed doping test in 2016 resulted in a 15-month ban from tennis.

One of just two former champions in the women's draw, Sharapova recovered from an early break in the second set and closed out her 6-1, 6-4 victory over Tatjana Maria with an ace on Tuesday at Margaret Court Arena. She celebrated by twirling, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd.

''It's been a couple of years since I've been back here - obviously I wanted to enjoy the moment,'' the 2008 Australian Open champion and three-time runner-up said in an on-court TV interview. ''It was really meaningful for me to be out here.''

Sharapova was banned for after testing positive for the drug meldonium here in 2016, when she reached the quarterfinals, and finished last year ranked No. 60.

The five-time major winner got vocal support from fans during and after her opening match.

''I've got shivers. It means a lot to me,'' Sharapova said. ''I cherish these moments, I love it.''

Sharapova could next meet No. 14-seeded Anastasija Sevastova, who beat her at the U.S. Open last year in her return to a Grand Slam to tournament.

Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champion, continued her resurgent run with a 6-0, 6-4 win over fellow German Anna-Lena Friedsam.

Kerber raced through the first set in 17 minutes but had her struggles in the second and was broken twice before converting her second match point and extending her streak to 10 consecutive wins.

She opened the year by winning four singles matches at the Hopman Cup, where Germany lost the final to Switzerland, and won the Sydney International last week for her first title since the 2016 U.S. Open.

Kerber made her major breakthrough two years ago in Australia, where she beat Serena Williams in the final, and went on to reach the Wimbledon final and win the U.S. Open in a year when she rose to No. 1.

Her ranking slid into the 20s in 2017, but she's coming back into the kind of form which makes her a title contender at Melbourne Park.

''I'm just enjoying it on court again,'' Kerber said. ''Something is going on with Australia and me. I love this country - I enjoy my stay, play my best tennis.''

No. 9 Johanna Konta beat Madison Brengle 6-3, 6-1, handing the U.S. a 10th loss in 11 first-round women's matches.

The first-round upsets included Venus Williams, U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and CoCo Vandeweghe, a semifinalist here and at the U.S. Open last year.

''It's a testament to how many great first- and second-round matches we have,'' Konta said of the early upsets. ''Shows how much depth we have in the women's game right now.''

Konta will next meet Bernarda Pera, a lucky loser in the qualifying tournament who registered the second win by an American woman at the tournament when she beat Russian qualifier Anna Blinkova 6-2, 6-2.

No. 20 Barbora Strycova's 6-1, 7-5 win over wild-card entry Kristie Ahn and Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat Christina McHale 6-3, 6-2 to make it 2 for 13 for the U.S. women so far.

Former No. 1-ranked Karolina Pliskova opened with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Veronica Cepede Royg, No. 8 Caroline Garcia beat Carina Witthoft 7-5, 6-3 and No. 29 Lucie Safarova defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-3.

No. 13 Sam Querrey restored some order for the U.S. men with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Feliciano Lopez, advancing to the second round. Two other U.S. contenders, No. 8 Jack Sock and No. 16 John Isner, were among the first-round casualties on Monday.

No. 20 Roberto Bautista Agut and No. 22 Milos Raonic, a former Wimbledon finalist, were beaten.

Bautista Agut lost to fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, a semifinalist here in 2009, and Raonic lost 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (4) to Lukas Lacko in the opening match on Show Court 2.

Penpix of the top women's contenders at Australian Open

(1/13/18) Penpix of the top women's contenders at the 2018 Australian Open, which begins on Monday:

Simona Halep (Romania)

World ranking: 1

Born: Sept. 27, 1991 (Age 26)

Height: 1.68 metres

Plays: Right-handed

Grand slam titles: 0

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 5-0

After rising to the top of the rankings at the end of last year, top seed Halep has continued her ruthless form to win the season-opening Shenzhen Open trophy. The Romanian, who reached the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park in 2014 and 2015, now has the chance to win her maiden grand slam title and assert her dominance after first-round exits in the last two editions.

Elina Svitolina (Ukraine)

World ranking: 4

Born: Sept. 12, 1994 (Age 23)

Height: 1.74 metres

Plays: Right-handed

Grand slam titles: 0

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 5-0

Svitolina won five singles titles last season and has started the current campaign in fine form by winning her 10th career title at the Brisbane International, dropping just one set in the process. The Ukrainian has not fared well at grand slams and will be eager to get past the third round at Melbourne Park for the first time.

Venus Williams (U.S.)

World ranking: 5

Born: June 17, 1980 (Age 37)

Height: 1.85 metres

Plays: Right-handed

Grand slam titles: 7 (Wimbledon 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008, U.S. Open 2000, 2001)

Veteran Williams is among the top contenders to win her eighth grand slam and first Australian Open title following a successful campaign last year, where she finished runner-up at Melbourne Park, Wimbledon and the WTA Finals, in the absence of her sister Serena. The 37-year-old has lost to her sister in two previous Australian Open finals.

Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

World ranking: 2

Born: July 11, 1990 (Age 27)

Height: 1.77 metres

Plays: Right-handed

Grand slam titles: 0

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 4-1

Wozniacki is showing no signs of slowing down since winning her 27th singles title at the ATP Finals last October as the Dane charged to the Auckland Classic final, where she lost to Julia Goerges after a tough match. The 27-year-old is yet to win a major and will be keen to better her record at Melbourne Park, where she reached the semi-finals in 2011.

Maria Sharapova (Russia)

World ranking: 47

Born: April 19, 1987 (Age 30)

Height: 1.88 metres

Plays: Right-handed

Grand slam titles: 5 (Wimbledon 2004, French Open 2012, 2014, Australian Open 2008, U.S. Open 2006)

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 3-1

The resurgent Russian is among the few contenders at Melbourne Park this year to have a major title to her name. The 30-year-old returned from a doping ban last season and went on to win the Tianjin Open. Sharapova kicked off the current season with a run to the semi-finals of the Shenzhen Open last week and is in prime position to get back to her ruthless best and win her first grand slam since 2014.

Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia)

Born: June 8, 1997 (Age 20)

Height: 1.77 metres

Plays: Right-handed

World ranking: 7

Grand slam titles: 1 (French Open 2017)

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 0-2

French Open champion Ostapenko continued her momentum after her shock win at Roland Garros, reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the third round of the U.S. Open for the first time. The 20-year-old ended last season with two semi-final appearances in Wuhan and Beijing and also qualified for the WTA finals. Despite her early exit in Shenzhen and Sydney, Ostapenko will be targeting another first as she aims to reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park.

Australian Open claims Maria Sharapova carried trophy into 2018 draw because she was only former champion available

(1/12/18) The Australian Open defended its decision to ask Maria Sharapova to carry the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup into the draw ceremony, arguing that she was the only former champion who had been available for the showpiece event.

Sharapova – whose last act at Melbourne Park was to provide a tainted urine sample in January 2016 – received a big build-up as she walked onto Margaret Court Arena with the trophy. An obsequious interview with Hamish McLachlan ensued, in which McLachlan referred to her “time out” as if she had taken a holiday rather than serving a 15-month doping ban.

In normal circumstances, defending champion Serena Williams would have appeared at the draw, but she is at home in Florida with her four-month-old daughter Alexis Olympia. And the only other former champion in this year’s event is Angelique Kerber, who is due to appear in the semi-finals at the Sydney International on Friday.

Asked why Sharapova had been chosen for this honour, the Australian Open’s tournament director Craig Tiley replied “As part of the tradition, we have the former champions [for the draw ceremony]. We needed a former champion to come, she accepted the invite.”

Tiley was then asked whether it was appropriate for Sharapova’s first public appearance here since her doping offence to be couched in such celebratory terms.

“In fairness to Maria, the adjudication has occurred on that,” he said. “It's her 10-year anniversary” – Sharapova won her lone Australian Open title in 2008 – “like it's the 30-year anniversary of this great Melbourne Park. Maria is an Australian Open champion. She deserved the opportunity.”

Despite the absence of any current champions to choose from, there would have been a case for calling up a legend from the past – such as Evonne Goolagong Cawley – to accompany male defending champion Roger Federer.

Instead, the Australian Open has made tennis look soft on doping offenders. It is hard to imagine Wimbledon welcoming Sharapova back so enthusiastically, nor the French Open, which last year denied her a wild card on moral grounds.

Halep faces wild card in Australian Open first round

(1/12/18) Romania's world No.1 Simona Halep will face Australian wild card Destanee Aiava as her first round opponent at the Australian Open, while Thursday's draw could also see her go up against Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals.

Halep, who has been beaten in the first round four times in Melbourne, must first overcome Aiava if she is to realise her dream of going on to win a first Grand Slam title.

This year's Australian Open field is wide open following the decision by 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams not to defend her title in Melbourne, saying she was not quite ready to compete after giving birth in September.

Last year's British quarter-finalist Johanna Konta is in the same quarter as Halep and faces American Madison Brengle first up.

Danish former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, the second seed after her resurgence in 2017 when she reached eight finals, opens against Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in the bottom half of the draw.

Wozniacki is projected to face French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the quarters.

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is in the same half of the draw as Halep and takes on France's Jessika Ponchet in the opening round.

Muguruza, seeded three, could face another Frenchwoman, Caroline Garcia, in the quarters.

The 2008 champion Maria Sharapova, who on Monday moved back into the world's top 50 for the first time since returning from a 15-month doping ban, is unseeded and takes on 47th-ranked German Tatjana Maria in the first round in the same section of the draw.

Evergreen 37-year-old Venus Williams, who last won a Slam in 2008, is seeded five and has a first-round encounter with Swiss Belinda Bencic, who teamed up with Roger Federer to win the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth last week.

Williams could face Ukraine's fourth seed Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals.

Federer, Djokovic drawn in same half for Australian Open

(1/11/18) Roger Federer found himself in a slightly awkward position before the Australian Open draw.

Just being there.

A few minutes later when the formalities were completed, Federer found out how difficult defending his title could be after landing in the same half as six-time champion Novak Djokovic.

"This is not normal," Federer told a crowd of hundreds of fans before the draw on Thursday at Margaret Court Arena. "I don’t like usually going to draws because they freak me out. I don’t want to know who I play other than just seeing the sheet at the end and knowing who my first-round opponent is."

First up, the 36-year-old Swiss will play Ajaz Bedene of Slovenia. He also has No. 7-ranked David Goffin, Juan Martin del Potro, Sam Querrey, and Milos Raonic in his quarter.

There’s a potential semifinal against Djokovic, who is aiming for a record seventh Australian Open title but is seeded 14th as he returns from six months on the sidelines with a right elbow injury.

Djokovic is in the same quarter as the Zverev brothers — fourth-seeded Alexander could meet older brother and No. 32-seeded Mischa in the third round — 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka, and No. 5 Dominic Thiem.

Federer beat Rafael Nadal in the final here last year on his return from six months on the sidelines and is seeded No. 2 as he bids for a 20th Grand Slam singles title.

Djokovic had a contrasting 2017, starting at No. 2 but losing in a second-round upset at the Australian Open and not playing again after Wimbledon. It was the first year since 2009 that Djokovic didn’t reach at least one Grand Slam final. He delayed his return until two exhibition appearances this week.

Top-ranked Nadal will open against Victor Estrella Burgos, has a potential fourth-round match against John Isner, and No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov in his half of the draw. He followed his run to the final in Melbourne by winning the French Open and U.S. Open, splitting the Grand Slam honours with Federer for the year.

Serena Williams has opted not to defend her title four months after giving birth to her first child, leaving the women’s draw open.

Her sister Venus, who lost the all-Williams Australian Open final last year, has a tough opener against Belinda Bencic — who combined with Federer to win the Hopman Cup for Switzerland last week — and is also in the same quarter as U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens.

Top-ranked Simona Halep opens against Australian wild card Destanee Aiava, has a potential second-round match against 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard, and is in the same half as Garbine Muruguza, the Wimbledon champion.

Third-seeded Muguruza is in a difficult quarter containing former Australian Open champions Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber, and U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys.

Sharapova, who won the 2008 Australian title and reached three other finals at Melbourne Park, missed last year’s tournament during a 15-month suspension after a failed doping test here in 2016.

The five-time major winner finished 2017 ranked No. 60, meaning she missed out on a seeding for the Australian Open and could face 2016 champion Kerber in the third round.

"There’s no easy way to get to the top," Sharapova told the crowd at Margaret Court Arena before the draw. "You always have to beat the top players in order to get to the top."

Organizers defended the decision to invite Sharapova to appear as the representative for the women’s draw, with tournament director Craig Tiley saying the sanction was over and the 30-year-old Russian was there as a former champion.

Sharapova said after a long time out she had to be patient coming back to the tour, but was still confident of returning to the top ranking and winning major tournaments.

"The drive, I still have it. I certainly will hope I put myself in that position," Sharapova said. "I put a lot of expectations on myself because I have been there, and I have delivered in those moments. I expect to continue to do so."

Siniakova beats Sharapova to reach Shenzhen Open final

(1/5/18) Defending champion Katerina Siniakova defeated Maria Sharapova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 on Friday in her first meeting with the five-time major winner to reach the final of the Shenzhen Open.

The sixth-seeded Siniakova hit 10 aces to set up a final on Saturday with top-ranked Simona Halep, who beat fourth-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1, 6-4.

"I’m so happy," Siniakova said. "You could see the emotions after I finally won the last point. It was a tough match for me, and even tougher to close it."

Sharapova, who is set for a return to the Australian Open which starts on Jan. 15, struggled with her serve, double faulting five times. Sharapova missed last year’s tournament during a doping ban that dated back to a failed test for meldonium at Melbourne Park in 2016.

In the first semifinal in Shenzhen on Friday, Halep had 15 winners and four service breaks as she maintained her perfect record against her doubles partner, improving to 6-0 against Begu.

"It was a tough match, I know that she’s a very strong player and in the second set, you could see that she was improving her game," Halep said. "I was strong enough to hit the ball (well) in the end."

Sharapova, Halep advance to semifinals at Shenzhen Open

(1/4/18) Maria Sharapova continued her preparations for an Australian Open return by beating Zarina Diyas 6-3, 6-3 Thursday to advance to the Shenzhen Open semifinals along with top-seeded Simona Halep.

The five-time major winner dictated play against Diyas, hitting 24 winners and five aces to clinch victory in just under 90 minutes on Thursday.

"I didn’t play my best tennis, and there’s certainly a lot of things to improve on," Sharapova said. "The great thing is that I’m through and have another chance to play tomorrow."

She will play defending champion and No.6-seeded Katerina Siniakova for a place in the final. Siniakova beat Kristyna Pliskova 6-2, 6-2.

Sharapova missed the last Australian Open during a doping ban that dated back to a failed test for meldonium at Melbourne Park in 2016, and is keen to make a return to the season’s opening major which starts Jan. 15.

Top-ranked Halep also eased into the semifinals with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Aryna Sabalenka.

Halep’s 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 win over local favourite Duan Yingying on Wednesday ensured she will retain the No. 1 ranking for the Australian Open.

Irina-Camelia Begu advanced to the Shenzhen semifinals earlier Thursday with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Timea Babos.

Maria Sharapova wins, Ostapenko loses at Shenzhen Open

(1/2/18) Maria Sharapova had 11 aces and saved seven of 10 break points to beat Alison Riske 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday and advance to the Shenzhen Open quarterfinals.

The five-time major winner will next face Zarina Diyas, who upset third-seeded Zhang Shuai 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4.

"Although I would’ve wanted a quick and easy victory, these are the kind of matches that you need, especially with such a short preparation going into the Australian Open," Sharapova said.

Earlier, Kristyna Pliskova, the twin of former No.1-ranked Karolina Pliskova, beat French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-1, 6-4.

Ostapenko, who beat Serena Williams in an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, was overwhelmed by Pliskova’s powerful serves.

"I felt a bit nervous in the second set, but my serve was really working today, which was a big help," Pliskova said.

Pliskova will next play Ana Bogdan, who beat Camila Giorgi 6-4, 6-2.

Aryna Sabalenka also advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Danka Kovinic, while Timea Babos defeated Magda Linette 6-2, 6-1.

Sharapova, Halep advance at Shenzhen Open

(1/1/18) Maria Sharapova and top-ranked Simona Halep opened their 2018 seasons with straight sets wins on Monday at the Shenzhen Open.

Sharapova finished off a 6-3, 6-0 win over Mihaela Buzarnescu with a powerful forehand winner, and Halep started her bid for a second Shenzhen title with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Nicole Gibbs.

"It’s my first victory this year as No. 1 in the world, so I’m just happy and enjoying the time," said 2015 champion Halep, who will play China’s Duan Yingying in the next round.

Sharapova dropped an early service game but recovered quickly to dominate her match.

"It’s always nice to start off the year with a victory. Overall I thought, besides a few breaks in the beginning, I really stepped up and finished the match off well," Sharapova said.

The five-time major winner will next play 2017 Shenzhen finalist Alison Riske, who opened beat fifth-seeded Wang Qiang on Sunday.

"She beat a crowd favourite yesterday, so I know I have a tough match ahead," Sharapova said. "But I just want to keep playing better, and keep improving no matter who is across the net."

No. 8-seeded Tima Babos had a 6-1, 6-1 win over Wang Xiyu.

Sharapova named in India luxury housing fraud probe

(11/21/17) Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova is under investigation in India for cheating and criminal conspiracy after the collapse of a luxury housing project that she endorsed, police and a lawyer said Tuesday.

The firm behind the development is alleged to have taken millions of dollars from homebuyers before the project folded.

"We have registered a case of cheating on directions from the court," local police officer Arvind Sharma told AFP.

He said Sharapova and the firm behind the development, Homestead Infrastructure Development, were named in the case.

The 30-year-old tennis star travelled to India in 2012 to launch the luxury high-rise apartment complex -- later named Ballet by Sharapova -- which prospective buyers were told would house a tennis academy, a clubhouse and a helipad.

The website of the project quotes Sharapova as saying her goal was to "make the owners feel like they own something special and different".

"Any celebrity who endorses any product technically becomes an agent for that company. No one would have invested in the project if Sharapova's name was not there," said Piyush Singh, a lawyer representing the complainant.

The project in Gurgaon -- a satellite city of the capital New Delhi -- was supposed to be ready in 2016 but, Singh said, construction work was abandoned after builders collected millions from homebuyers.

Calls to the developers went unanswered. Sharapova has not yet commented on the case.

Sharapova, a former world number one, made almost $30 million in 2015, according to Forbes, with $23 million of that coming from endorsements.

She has had a stop-start season since her controversial return to the game in April, following a 15-month doping ban.

Grand Slams planning to cut seeds from 32 back to 16 in 2019

(11/21/17) Grand Slam tournaments are planning to return to seeding only 16 players, instead of 32, as of 2019, and now will give a player who is a late withdrawal because of an injury 50 per cent of the first-round prize money.

Also among the announcements by the Grand Slam Board on Tuesday after two days of meetings in London last week:

— A player who retires from a first-round match or "performs below professional standards" could face a fine as high as the entire prize money due a loser in that round.

— A 25-second serve clock will be tried out at the Australian Open in January, but like at this year’s U.S. Open, not during main-draw matches.

— Players could be fined up to $20,000 for violating "strictly enforced" prematch timing, which will give them one minute to meet at the net after walking on the court, five minutes for warming up, followed by one minute to be ready for play to begin.

The four Grand Slam tournaments — the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open — doubled the number of seeded players to 32 in June 2001. That decision was made partly in response to complaints from clay-court specialists that they wanted more draw protection at Wimbledon, the only major tournament played on grass.

Going back to 16 seeds in 2019 would, in theory anyway, make early upsets more likely. That’s because if all of the highest-ranked players enter the field, whoever is No. 1 could wind up facing whoever is No. 17 in the opening round.

With 32 seeds, none was forced to play someone ranked higher than No. 33 before the third round.

The changes with regard to first-round withdrawals, retirements and lack of full effort appear to be in response to what happened at Wimbledon this year. Novak Djokovic’s first-round match at Centre Court lasted all of 40 minutes, and Roger Federer’s went 43, before their opponents stopped playing because of pre-existing injuries. Two other men also stopped mid-match that day, bringing the first-round retirement total to seven and sparking discussion about whether spectators were being shortchanged.

The rule changes issued Tuesday, and taking effect next year, let players collect half of the first-round prize money at a Grand Slam tournament if they are "unfit to play" and withdraw onsite after noon on Thursday but before the main draw begins. The person replacing them in the field — a "lucky loser" who failed to advance out of the qualifying rounds — will get the other half of that money, plus whatever they might accumulate by winning matches.

The reasoning: Injured or ill players won’t start a match simply to collect their prize money before quitting.

The 25-second serve clock gives players 5 more seconds than ATP rules currently allow on the men’s tour. But Grand Slam Board Director Bill Babcock said the clock will be used at the 2018 Australian Open on a trial basis the way it was at the U.S. Open, which tested it only for events such as qualifying and junior matches.

1st-round withdrawals at Grand Slams could lose prize money

(11/21/17) A player who withdraws or performs below professional standards during a first-round singles match at a Grand Slam tournament could be fined under new rules introduced Tuesday.

The Grand Slam Board says a player who is unfit to compete and withdraws before the draw will receive 50 per cent of the first-round prize money. The replacement will receive the remaining 50 per cent.

It is an attempt to stop players who aren’t fully fit from playing in the first round just so they can collect prize money.

At the end of a two-day meeting in London, the GSB said there will be a 25-second shot clock at the 2018 Australian Open in line with a system tested at this year’s U.S. Open.

The majors will also revert to 16 seeded players in 2019 from the current 32.

Australian Open to feature 25-second shot-clocks

(11/21/17) Players will have an additional five seconds between points at next year's Australian Open but time-wasters will have nowhere to hide thanks to the introduction of shot-clocks.

The Grand Slam Board, responsible for the rules at the four majors, confirmed on Tuesday that the Australian Open's request to raise the time from 20 to 25 seconds and strictly enforce it with an electronic shot-clock had been accepted.

The three other slams will also allow 25 seconds, bringing them into line with regular Tour events, but are not currently scheduled to have shot-clocks.

A two-day rules meeting of the Grand Slam Board in London also agreed to limit pre-match warm-ups to five minutes.

Another rule change, which could drastically alter the complexion of majors draws, could also be in place in 2019, with the number of seeds limited to 16 instead of the current 32.

This year's four slams will still have 32 seeds.

The length of time between points has been a cause of consternation in the sport and while increasing the period allowed appears counterintuitive, shot-clocks will take the decision over whether to penalize a slow player out of the umpire's hands.

Currently it is down to the discretion of the official but the inconsistency in enforcing it has caused problems.

The 25-second shot-clock was used in the U.S. Open qualifying event this year and also at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan earlier this month.

The Grand Slam Board said in a statement that the serving-time changes had been agreed unanimously.

Speeding up the game and cutting out "dead time" has been a priority for the men's ATP Tour.

ATP chief executive Chris Kermode, who praised the shot-clock innovation in Milan, believes the five-minute pre-match warmup is still too long.

American player Jared Donaldson said before the Milan tournament: "The five-minute warmup maybe is redundant and doesn't necessarily need to take place. Maybe as soon as you walk on court you have five minutes to get ready."

The Australian Open will be more specific than the current grey area, allocating players one minute to walk on and be ready for the umpire's briefing at the net, followed by a five-minute knock-up, plus one minute to prepare for the first point.

Those not ready to play within the permitted time could face fines of $20,000 (£15,117).

Sharapova, Puig heading to Puerto Rico for hurricane relief

(10/20/17) Maria Sharapova and Monica Puig will head to Puerto Rico next week to help with recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, and Puig, who won Puerto Rico's first Olympic gold medal in any sport at the Rio de Janeiro Games last summer, will go to the island Monday to distribute portable stoves, medicine and other supplies.

The agency that represents both players said Wednesday that Puig has raised more than $125,000 to help storm victims, while Sharapova is donating proceeds from her candy company for the rest of 2017.

The storm swept across Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, causing at least 48 deaths, according to the official tally. It caused widespread flooding and knocked out the entire power grid for the island of 3.4 million people.

Sharapova eyes strong finish to season after Tianjin title

(10/17/17) Maria Sharapova was beaten by Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, ending her bid for a second title in two weeks.

Sharapova, who won the Tianjin Open two days ago, brought her usual power but lacked accuracy with some wild swings on key points.

"I felt fine physically, to be honest, especially after having played five matches in five days (in Tianjin). That was a big surprise," Sharapova said. "Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been … Maybe if this tournament hadn’t been in Moscow, I wouldn’t have played it."

Sharapova was under pressure on serve from the start and saved six break points before finally being broken to 6-5. She responded by breaking Rybarikova, but Sharapova’s double fault at 4-3 in the tiebreaker handed the Slovakian the momentum to close out the set.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, sealed the match after saving two break points to lead 5-4, then breaking Sharapova in the next game. Rybarikova will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Six months after she returned from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova is still trying to move back up the rankings from her current position of 57th. Her first tour appearance in Moscow in a decade drew a large and enthusiastic crowd despite taking place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, seventh-seeded Julia Goerges beat Russian qualifier Polina Monova 6-0, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

In the men’s Kremlin Cup tournament, sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur defeated Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

Sharapova eyes strong finish to season after Tianjin title

(10/15/17) Maria Sharapova is looking for a strong finish to a season that began with a doping ban and hit a high in China on Sunday when she won her first title in over two years.

The former world number one, who returned from the 15-month ban in April, defeated Belarusian teenager Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 7-6(8) in the final of the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

Sharapova said she was looking forward to building on the success next week in Moscow at the Kremlin Cup, a tournament she has not appeared at since 2007.

"Obviously coming there with the title already means a lot, but I do really want to finish strong," said the Russian, who accepted a wild card for the event.

"I don't remember the last time that I played three events in a row. But I will give it everything I have got and I know I have so many amazing fans there."

The five-times grand slam champion said the Tianjin title, the 36th of her career, was special.

"It has been a couple of years since I have held the winner's trophy. It is a great feeling," she said.

"When you start all the way from the beginning of the tournament and then you end up playing the final in a full stadium with so much enthusiasm and energy and you are the one that wins the last point, just everything falls into place.

"You have to appreciate those moments, never take them for granted."

Sharapova takes on Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova in the opening round in Moscow.

Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

(10/15/17) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

"Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever," Sharapova said. "Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin."

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.

Sharapova storms into Tianjin quarter-finals

(10/14/17) Former world No 1 Maria Sharapova eased past defending champion Peng Shuai 6-3, 6-1 at the Tianjin Open to reach her first WTA final in almost two and a half years.

Sharapova, who returned to the tour in April following a 15-month doping ban, will meet teenager and Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who is ranked 102 and made her first WTA final after beating Italy's Sara Errani 6-1, 6-3 in the other semi-final.

The Russian, who is currently ranked 86, broke her Chinese opponent in the opening game and rarely looked troubled on her own serve.

Peng, ranked No 25 in the world, had no answer to Sharapova's power hitting from the baseline and gave up another break en route to conceding the first set.

Sharapova, who is yet to drop a set in Tianjin, raced into a 3-0 lead at the start of the second but suffered a brief bout of nerves while serving for the fifth game, when she was forced to save three break points.

The 30-year-old turned the tables on Peng in the very next game, breaking her opponent once again before closing out the contest in 78 minutes.

It will be Sharapova's first WTA final since she defeated Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro to win the Italian Open in May 2015.

Sharapova storms into Tianjin quarter-finals

(10/13/17) Maria Sharapova surged into the Tianjin Open quarter-finals on Thursday as she pursues her first tournament victory since her return from a doping ban.

The Russian former world number one defeated Magda Linette of Poland 7-5, 6-3 and will play Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele.

The 30-year-old Sharapova has been on the comeback trail since April after serving a 15-month suspension for taking the banned substance meldonium.

Sharapova, a five-time major-winner, is now ranked a lowly 86 in the world and she needed a wildcard to enter the Tianjin tournament.

She saw off 71st-ranked Linette in just over 98 minutes to reach only her second quarter-final since her return to action.

"We did a really good job of holding serve in the first set," Sharapova was quoted as saying by the WTA website.

"I feel like I made a few too many errors on my return game which ultimately led to a difficult first set.

"But once I broke her early in that second set I played a really good aggressive game and I felt like I had the momentum in the second."

Sharapova triumphs in Tianjin opener

(10/11/17) Maria Sharapova made an impressive start to the Tianjin Open on Wednesday by beating Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets.

Seeded ninth, Begu loomed as a tricky first-round opponent for Sharapova, but the former world number one from Russia swept to a 6-4, 6-2 victory.

However, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova suffered a shock defeat, going out to local hope Zhu Lin in three sets.

Currently ranked 86th after returning from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova -- granted a wildcard in Tianjin -- plays unseeded Magda Linette of Poland next.

The 30-year-old Sharapova, who returned to tennis in April after serving a suspension for taking the banned substance meldonium, has yet to win a tournament since then.

The five-times Grand Slam winner exited the China Open last week in the third round at the hands of Romania's Simona Halep, the newly crowned world number one.

But Sharapova had no such trouble against Begu, seeing off the 57th-ranked Romanian in 82 minutes.

The opening matches of the Tianjin Open have been badly disrupted because of rain and Sharapova said she was glad to finally get into action.

"It's been a long wait for everyone, it hasn't been easy," the Russian was quoted as saying by the official WTA website.

"I had a first practice outdoors and then I think it rained for 70 hours straight, unfortunately for the players."

Maria Sharapova may play WTA Moscow in mid-October

(10/10/17) Maria Sharapova may play WTA International Moscow, that will take place from 16 to 22 October. The Kremlin Cup tournament director Alexei Selivanenko will try, along with his staff, to bring the five time Grand Slam champion in the event.

'There are some chances to see her play, we discussed about it with her manager (Max Eisenbud) in New York during Us Open', Selivanenko said. 'He said that if Maria feels fresh after Beijing and Tianjin, she would like to play our event.' Sharapova made three appearances in Moscow in the past: in 2005 she lost to Dinara Safina in the quarter-finals, in 2006 to Anne Chakvetadze in the second round and in 2007 in the first round to Victoria Azarenka.

There will be Johanna Konta and Kristina Mladenovic, who both withdrew from Hong Kong, Dominika Cibulkova, Jelena Ostapenko, Ekaterina Makarova, Elena Vesnina, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova Will play.

Sharapova gets red-hot Garcia in tough Tianjin opener

(10/8/17) Maria Sharapova's stop-start comeback from a 15-month doping ban takes her to the Chinese city of Tianjin this week and a tough draw against France's on-form Caroline Garcia.

The five-time Grand Slam champion and former number one from Russia has been paired with top seed Garcia in her opener at the Tianjin Open, where she was granted a wildcard.

However, 15th-ranked Garcia has been carrying a thigh injury and combined with her reaching Sunday's final of the China Open, she could yet choose to skip Tianjin.

Sharapova, now ranked a lowly 104 in the world, could hardly have a harder opponent.

Garcia is in the form of her life, winning the Wuhan Open last weekend and later Sunday playing new number one Simona Halep in the final in Beijing.

Also taking part in Tianjin, which is near the Chinese capital, is the two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

But as usual, most focus will be on the 30-year-old Sharapova, who has struggled for top form and fitness since returning to tennis in April following her suspension for taking the banned substance meldonium.

She fell in the third round at the China Open to Halep, who will be confirmed as number one for the first time on Monday.

Halep knocks error-prone Sharapova out of China Open

(10/4/17) World number two Simona Halep beat Maria Sharapova 6-2 6-2 in the China Open third round on Wednesday for her first win over the Russian in eight attempts.

Halep, who lost to Sharapova in the first round of the U.S. Open, won five out of nine break points and took advantage of an error-prone display to hand the Russian her first straight-sets defeat of the season in one hour and 12 minutes.

Despite hitting more winners than her rival, Sharapova committed 39 unforced errors and struggled to contend with the second seed's power and aggression in Beijing.

"It was a great match, I think I played my best tennis against her," Halep said.

"I served pretty well, and the work that I did after the U.S. Open, I could see it on court today. I'm really happy that I could do this. It's my first victory against her and I just want to enjoy the moment.

"Today, I said it's just another match, I just wanted to give everything I have, stay focused, calm and positive."

Sharapova agreed with Halep's assessment of the pair's second meeting in six weeks, after not playing the Romanian for almost two years.

"I think she played an incredible match, probably the best she's played against me in all of our previous meetings," Sharapova said.

"I wasn't as sharp. I wasn't seeing the ball as well. I wasn't moving up and down as well as I have been against her.

"She was hitting the ball consistently, not making a lot of unforced errors, her service percentage was quite high. She did all the right things."

The Romanian goes through to the quarter-finals where she will take on either 11th seed Agnieszka Radwanska or Daria Kasatkina, who face off later on Wednesday.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia took one step closer to qualifying for the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore with a 6-3 7-5 win over Australia's Samantha Stosur in round two.

Also advancing to the third round were China's Peng Shuai, who made short work of Romanian Monica Niculescu with a 6-3 6-2 win, and Wuhan Open champion Caroline Garcia of France who overcame Belgian Elise Mertens 7-6(4) 6-4.

Ukrainian Elina Svitolina then defeated Australia's Ashleigh Barty 6-4 6-2 in the second round to set up a clash with Russia's Elena Vesnina.

Halep sets up Sharapova rematch in Beijing

(10/4/17) World number two Simona Halep set up a mouth-watering third- round clash with Maria Sharapova at the China Open after the Romanian's opponent Magdalena Rybarikova retired due to illness trailing 6-1 2-1 on Tuesday.

Halep survived a break point in the opening game before powering her way to a 5-0 lead with two breaks of her own as Rybarikova struggled on serve and committed 19 unforced errors en route to conceding the first set.

The 28-year-old Slovakian conceded the match early in the second set after a medical timeout, giving Halep an opportunity to avenge her U.S. Open first-round defeat by Sharapova.

The Russian, who has never lost to Halep in seven previous meetings, beat compatriot Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 4-6 6-1 to record a second consecutive three-set victory in Beijing earlier on Tuesday.

"You can take a little bit away from all the matches we've played in the past," Sharapova said. "We know each other's games very well. They've always been very challenging, tough, competitive, emotional.

"I love the challenge of playing against someone that's number two in the world. She's a great player. She's had a great year."

Defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska made hard work of her 7-5 7-5 victory over China's Zhang Shuai, dropping serve while trying to close out the match at 5-4, but recovered to set up a third-round clash with Russian Daria Kasatkina.

Cheered on by a partisan home support, Zhang hit 35 winners to her opponent's 17, but also made 40 unforced errors as she slumped to her fourth career defeat by the Pole.

Twice grand slam champion Petra Kvitova dominated American qualifier Varvara Lepchenko in a battle of left-handers, the Czech winning 88 percent of points on serve to progress to the third round with a routine 6-4 6-4 victory.

Kvitova faces fifth seed Carolina Wozniacki next, in what promises to add another intriguing chapter to their eight-year rivalry.

Number 12 seed Kvitova holds a 6-5 lead in her head-to-head record with Wozniacki, having won their last two matches in straight sets.

Fourth seed Karolina Pliskova hit nine aces as she edged out German qualifier Andrea Petkovic 6-4 6-4 to set up a clash with Sorana Cirstea of Romania.

American CoCo Vandeweghe was forced to retire early in the second set against Daria Gavrilova, sending the Australian through to face Czech Barbora Strycova, while China's Duan Ying-ying lost to Russia's Elena Vesnina.

Sharapova digs deep in China Open epic

(9/30/17) Maria Sharapova got her revenge over Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova with a gutsy 7-6 (7/3), 5-7, 7-6 (9/7) victory in the China Open first round on Saturday.

It was the five-time Grand Slam winner's first appearance since she was beaten by Sevastova at the US Open in early September and gets her stop-start return from a doping ban back on track.

Sharapova, once number one but now ranked a lowly 104 in the world, is a wildcard in Beijing as she works her way back slowly from a 15-month ban for taking the banned substance meldonium.

She was far from her best, making a series of unforced errors, but Sharapova dug in and saved match point during an attritional encounter lasting more than three hours in the Chinese capital.

Sharapova, who has also been wrestling with injury, will take on American qualifier Jennifer Brady or fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the next round.

"I didn't give in, which I think is a really good sign considering it's been a few weeks since I played and she was someone that I lost to in my previous match," said a relieved Sharapova.

The 30-year-old said that "physically and emotionally" she did not have it in her when she faced Sevastova in New York in the fourth round, but feels she is getting stronger in both respects.

"When I saw the draw (Sevastova again), I was like, 'Of course,'" added Sharapova with a grin.

Sharapova, who controversially returned to tennis in April, said she was feeling "fresh" and is eager to finish the season on a high.

"Winning is very special and when you lose it's tough and you have to go on and build and work on things that didn't work out for you," she said.

Asked how far she was from getting back to her peak, Sharapova declined to say: "It's not really the way I think."

Sevastova broke the Russian -- who had the majority of the crowd behind her -- in the seventh game of the first set to seize the early initiative.

Sharapova immediately broke back for 4-4, before falling 6-5 down on her own serve when her drop shot went astray, only to strike back immediately to force a tie break.

"Come on!" the former China Open champion shouted as she wrapped up the first-set tie break.

Sharapova looked set to race through the second set to book her place in round two.

But her serve was suspect all match and the Latvian refused to submit.

Sevastova broke Sharapova once more as the match clock hit the two-hour mark to level the encounter at one-set each, before Sharapova finally saw off her resilient opponent in an epic decider.

Earlier, the second seed Simona Halep battled past the American Alison Riske in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.



Wednesday, September 20: Guests include Maria Sharapova with musical guest Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas and guest Ari Shaffir.

Maria Sharapova won’t say she likes Serena, but respects her

(9/16/17) Maria Sharapova, who beat Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2004, writes about their bitter rivalry in new book “Unstoppable: My Life So Far” — and admits she doesn’t like the tennis great, but respects her.

“I respect Serena. I mean how can I say that I like someone that’s beaten me 19 times? That’d be silly,” Sharapova told Katie Couric at the 92nd Street Y, after making a comeback appearance at the US Open following a doping ban.

She added, “To me, respect is a very important word .?.?. That’s why I use the word respect when I talk about Serena. Because I know how much it takes, and I know how much she had to work in her upbringing without coming from any money, with having a tough childhood and making it. Going against diversity and being in a position where she is now, it would be very wrong for me to sit here and say I have no respect for her.”

Williams, meanwhile, just gave birth to her daughter with fiancé Alexis Ohanian, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Former US Open champ Sharapova entered 2017’s tournament as a wild card and made it to the fourth round.

Maria Sharapova hits out at critics saying they 'don't have the facts' and questions why melodium is banned

(9/14/17) Maria Sharapova has rounded on her critics, saying they "don't have the facts" to be able to comment on her drugs ban and subsequent return.

The former world No 1 made her comeback in April following a 15-month ban for taking the banned substance meldonium.

Sharapova has never apologised and shown little remorse for her actions which in part has led to the outrage from fellow players and pundits within the sport since her comeback. Even now the Russian will only admit to making a "mistake" but is at a loss as to why melodium is now on WADA's prohibited list.

Sharapova, who has released her memoir Unstoppable, My Life So Far, has hit out at those criticising the manner of her comeback by stating she doesn't take their comments on board.

Eugenie Bouchard has been one fierce critic of Sharapova. The Canadian said back in April: "She's a cheater and I don't think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play again."

Sharapova said of Bouchard's reaction: "I think those are comments not based on facts, and therefore I don't take them into consideration."

The 30-year-old also took aim at Andy Murray who had doubted why athletes would take meldonium, which is a prescripted heart drug.

Sharapova said in a BBC news special, The Unstoppable Sharapova: "I don't think it's for them to really have an opinion, because they don't have the facts. So, you know, I think that those are the types of words that make headlines and they will be used as headlines."

She went on to say how she has "admitted my mistake", again without offering an apology for her actions, and indicated that she is keen to move on from the episode.

Sharapova was handed a wildcard for the US Open and was given centre stage by Flushing Meadows organisers throughout her run to the fourth round.

The 20 greatest tennis players of Open era

Her special treatment was questioned by Caroline Wozniacki who was baffled how a drugs cheat could be put on the main show court match after match. And while Sharapova insists she was at fault for taking meldonium, she has questioned whether it should be banned.

"The problem I have with that is there's no proof of what it does, and no one can give you that proof. What is the ban based on?"

Sharapova reflects on Serena rivalry in new autobiography

(9/13/17) Maria Sharapova muses on her long, lopsided rivalry with Serena Williams in a new autobiography released on Tuesday and how she believes a locker room moment fueled the American's drive to dominate her.

The Russian-born Sharapova was 17 when she defeated Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final. Rather than proving the start of a long, close-run rivalry, it was one of just two victories Sharapova can claim against the US great, who has beaten her 19 times.

In her new book, "Unstoppable: My Life So Far," Sharapova says it was not only her victory, but the fact that she overheard Williams weeping afterwards in the locker room that ensured the American would always find a way to elevate her game in their future contests.

"Guttural sobs, the sort that make you heave for air, the sort that scares you," Sharapova writes of the moment, according to excerpts released by The New York Times.

"It went on and on. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there. People often wonder why I have had so much trouble beating Serena; she's owned me in the past ten years.

"I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon," she said.

In the memoir published by Sarah Crichton Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sharapova details her tennis career from the time of her move to Florida at the age of six -- and Williams caught her attention early on.

Sharapova recalls surreptitiously watching Serena and her sister Venus play during a visit to the Florida academy where she trained -- unwilling even then to "put myself in the position of worshiping them, looking up, being a fan."

Tensions between Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion who returned to competition in April after a 15-month doping ban, and 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams -- who gave birth to a daughter this month -- have sometimes spilled over into public spats.

Sharapova ponders the reasons, wondering if the antagonism between them has perhaps driven each to excellence.

"Maybe that's better than being friends," she writes, adding: "Someday, when all this is in our past, maybe we'll become friends. Or not. You never can tell."

Maria Sharapova dines with pals following US Open loss

(9/12/17) Maria Sharapova didn’t sulk about her US Open loss for long.

The disgraced tennis player was spotted dining with two friends, a male and a female, at Estiatorio Milos in New York City Saturday night, a source told Page Six. Sharapova, 30, kept it casual in a camel sweater, black pants, a white collared shirt and white Nike sneakers. The trio arrived around 8 p.m. and sat near the restaurant’s wine cellar.

Later on, two additional friends joined the trio. At the end of their night out, Sharapova treated her friends and styling team by paying the bill for their pricey night at the gourmet restaurant.

Sharapova returned to the US Open earlier this month after a 15-month ban for doping. Latvian tennis pro Anastasija Sevastova, 27, defeated Sharapova in three sets.

The Russian tennis player must have taken a cue from Roger Federer, who, following his crushing loss at the US Open, had lunch with Bill Gates at Le Bilboquet Friday.

Sharapova felt 'tricked, trapped' by failed drugs test

(9/10/17) Maria Sharapova felt "trapped" and "tricked" after learning she had failed a drugs test for taking the banned substance meldonium.

The former world number one tested positive at the 2016 Australian Open and was initially banned until January 2018.

However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the two-year suspension to 15 months after ruling that she was taking meldonium – which had only been added to WADA's prohibited list at the start of 2016 – for medical purposes and not to enhance performance.

Sharapova returned to the WTA Tour in April and played at her first major tournament since her ban at the US Open, where she reached the fourth round.

The five-time grand slam champion said she was making plans for her retirement before she received news of her failed test.

Writing in her autobiography 'Unstoppable, by Maria Sharapova', an excerpt of which was published in The Guardian, she wrote: "I was imagining my retirement in the winter of 2015. I'd play through the winter and spring, appear at the Olympics in Rio, then begin my last professional season, with my book published just before the 2017 US Open. I’d tell my story and say goodbye.

"The 2016 season began at the Australian Open. Serena Williams beat me in the quarter-finals. It felt like a decent start to my 12th pro season. But, as sometimes happens in nightmares, what felt like the beginning turned out to be the end.

"A few weeks later, when I was back in LA, training, I got a funny-looking email. It was from the International Tennis Federation. As I read, my heart started to pound.

"It said the urine sample I had given in Australia had come back positive. In other words, and I had to read this again and again to make sure I was not hallucinating, I had failed the drug test. How? What the hell could it be?

"I took nothing new, nothing that was not legal and prescribed by a doctor. It was called meldonium. OK, obviously this was a mistake. Who had ever heard of that? I Googled it, just to make sure.

"Then I understood. I knew meldonium as Mildronate, the brand name. It was a supplement I'd been taking for 10 years. It's an over-the-counter supplement in Russia, so common that you don't think of it as a drug, let alone a performance-enhancing one.

"I'd first been told to take it when I was 18 and getting sick a lot; I had an issue with irregular heartbeats. For seven years, I had written confirmation that all the supplements I was taking, including Mildronate, were permissible.

"As of January 2016, meldonium was included in a catalogue of banned substances that the ITF sent out to players. It was viewable by clicking through a series of links in an email. I never followed those links, and didn't ask any of my team to.

"That was my mistake. But the ITF didn't draw any attention to the fact that they were suddenly banning a supplement that was being legally used by millions of people. That was their mistake.

"I felt trapped, tricked, but I figured all I had to do was explain myself. Meldonium had been banned for four weeks. At worst, I had inadvertently been in violation of the ban for less than 28 days.

"But I soon realised I was running into a brick wall. If I failed to win my case, I could be banned for up to four years. It would be the end of my career."

The View – ABC - Appearance

(9/7/17) The View – ABC

Tuesday, September 12

Maria Sharapova (author, “Unstoppable: My Life So Far”)

The Daily Show - Appearance

(9/6/17) THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH, Comedy Central

Tuesday 9/12: Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova’s U.S. Open run ends in fourth round

(9/3/17) Maybe this was just one three-setter too many for Maria Sharapova.

Sharapova tried a bit of everything, even resorting to switching over her racket to hit a few lefty shots. Still, the five-time major champion could not quite keep her Grand Slam comeback from a doping suspension going, losing in the fourth round of the U.S. Open to 16th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 on Sunday.

"Look, three-set matches are challenging . I love being part of them. There’s an element of concentration, focus, physicality that goes into all of it. And you have to put it all together. Yeah, you just have to get through it," Sharapova said. "There’s no doubt that not playing those matches certainly cost me today. I did feel like I was thinking a little bit too much and not playing by instinct."

This was the third time in her four matches that Sharapova went the distance and she faded down the stretch, while also dealing with a blister on her right hand that was treated and taped by a trainer in the final set. Sharapova’s miscues kept closing exchanges, and she dropped 13 of the first 14 points in that set.

The 30-year-old Russian finished with 51 unforced errors, compared to 14 for Sevastova.

"It’s been a really great ride," Sharapova said.

"Ultimately, I can take a lot from this week," she continued. "It’s great to get that major out of the way. It was an incredible opportunity. I’m very thankful for the opportunity."

Sharapova’s exit leaves Venus Williams as the only past U.S. Open champion in the women’s field . The 37-year-old Williams, who won the title in 2000 and 2001, got to the quarterfinals by beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Next for Williams will be a showdown against No. 3 Garbine Muguruza or No. 13 Petra Kvitova, who were scheduled to face each other Sunday night. Muguruza beat Williams in the Wimbledon final in July; Kvitova owns two trophies from the All England Club.

Sharapova hadn’t played in a major tournament since the Australian Open in January 2016, when she tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium. She served a 15-month ban for that, returning to the tour this April with a ranking too low to get into Grand Slam events.

The French Open denied her a wild-card invitation, then she planned to try to qualify for Wimbledon before pulling out because of an injured left leg.

But she was able to enter the U.S. Open thanks to a wild card from the U.S. Tennis Association, which then proceeded to put its 2006 champion in Arthur Ashe Stadium every time she played over the past week, drawing strong support from spectators — and criticism from another former No. 1-ranked woman, Caroline Wozniacki.

On Day 1 of the tournament, Sharapova won a three-set thriller under the lights against No. 2 seed Simona Halep.

"Just competing, you know, being in that competitive environment — that’s what I missed," Sharapova said. "You can’t replicate that anywhere, especially at a Grand Slam. So … Monday night was a special night for me. I will always remember it."

This time, Sevastova made Sharapova run a lot by pulling her forward with drop shots or tight angles, then would often deposit follow-up strokes into open spaces. On one point won by Sharapova in the second set, she twice tracked down lobs that she got back over the net by hitting the ball left-handed.

But she could not sustain enough strong play, and Sevastova reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.

"I allowed the match to become physical," Sharapova said about the late-going. "I don’t think I played as aggressive or was stepping in as much as I did in the first set."

Sevastova will face unseeded American Sloane Stephens, who reached her first quarterfinal in New York by eliminating No. 30 Julia Goerges 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Stephens has won 12 of her past 14 matches, a remarkable run for someone who was off the tour for 11 months because of foot surgery in January.

Earlier Sunday, 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov’s entertaining stay ended with a 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) loss to 12th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain. In the quarters, Carreno Busta will play No. 29 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.

Shapovalov was trying to become the youngest male quarterfinalist at Flushing Meadows since Andre Agassi in 1988, but he wasted a 5-2 lead and three set points in the opener, and finished with 55 unforced errors.

"Honestly, it was so much fun to be part of that atmosphere and the match and this whole two weeks," Shapovalov said. "You know, it’s another life-changing event for me."

Women main focus on Arthur Ashe on Sunday

(9/2/17) Women's tennis's biggest names still remaining at the U.S. Open take center stage on Sunday with grand slam winners Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova all appearing on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Even with forecasters predicting rain, the show will go on under the retractable roof with Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov and Spanish 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta providing the opening act before three successive women's matches.

Despite criticism, Sharapova will be back on Arthur Ashe for her fourth successive match where she will face Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova for a spot in the quarter-finals

Playing her first grand slam since returning from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova has enjoyed wild fan support every time she steps on to the court but not everyone is happy to see the five-time winner back.

Fifth seeded Caroline Wozniacki criticized U.S. Open organizers for putting her on an outside court in her second round loss while Sharapova soaked up the applause on Arthur Ashe.

One of the biggest draws in tennis, Sharapova has played to sellout crowds of 23,771 every match and the Russian wildcard has been unapologetic, delivering Wozniacki a stinging rebuke.

"I'm in the fourth round. I'm not sure where she (Wozniacki) is," shot back Sharapova, adding she would be happy to play in parking lot if that is where she was scheduled.

The most intriguing clash, however, may be the last of the women's matches with Wimbledon champion and third seed Muguruza facing double Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova.

The 13th seeded Czech is continuing to make her way back from a career-threatening hand injury sustained when she was stabbed in the hand by an intruder in her home last year.

Ninth seeded Williams, a twice U.S. Open champion and a crowd favorite for almost two decades, takes on Spanish veteran Carla Suarez Navarro in the final women's match on the main showcourt.

Sam Querrey, the last American hope in the men's draw, then wraps up singles action on the main court when he plays German 23rd seed Mischa Zverev.

I'd play on a parking lot, says Sharapova

(9/2/17) Maria Sharapova has shrugged off Caroline Wozniacki's criticism of U.S. Open organizers for giving the Russian center court billing in her return to grand slam tennis after a doping ban.

Defeated by Ekaterina Makarova on an outside court in the second round, former world number one Wozniacki lashed organizers for scheduling Sharapova at Arthur Ashe Stadium in her opening matches.

Sharapova, who returned from a 15-month ban in April, was handed a wildcard for the year's final grand slam and made her third consecutive appearance in the main stadium on Friday, beating American teenager Sofia Kenin 7-5 6-2 to reach the fourth round.

"With regards to scheduling, as you know, I don't make the schedule," Sharapova told reporters.

"I'm a pretty big competitor. If you put me out in the parking lot of Queens in New York City, I'm happy to play there.

"That's not what matters to me. All that matters to me is I'm in the fourth round. Yeah, I'm not sure where she is."

The 2006 U.S. Open champion has been warmly embraced at Flushing Meadows, playing to standing ovations and raucous cheers from sellout crowds.

She will play Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova for a place in the quarter-finals.

Sharapova swats away Wozniacki’s U.S. Open court complaint

(9/2/17) Maria Sharapova doesn’t care where she plays at the U.S. Open, only that she’s still playing.

Sharapova responded Friday to comments from Caroline Wozniacki, who complained after she was eliminated that Sharapova was scheduled for Arthur Ashe Stadium while she played on an outer court.

"That’s not what matters to me," Sharapova said following her 7-5, 6-2 victory over American Sofia Kenin. "All that matters to me is I’m in the fourth round. I’m not sure where she is."

Sharapova, given a wild card by the U.S. Tennis Association into her first Grand Slam tournament since a 15-month doping ban, has played all three matches on the main court.

Wozniacki, the No. 5 seed, said she thought that was a poor example following her second-round defeat Wednesday in a match that was scheduled for one outside court and eventually moved to another late in the day.

"When you look on centre court, I understand completely the business side of things and everything, but someone who comes back from a drug sentence and performance-enhancing drugs and then all of a sudden gets to play every single match on centre court, I think that’s a questionable thing to do," Wozniacki told Ekstrabladet TV of Denmark.

Ashe is usually reserved for the top players. Sharapova is a five-time Grand Slam champion, but she is unseeded here with a ranking that has tumbled to No. 146 following her suspension.

"With regards to scheduling, as you know, I don’t make the schedule," Sharapova said. "I’m a pretty big competitor. If you put me out in a parking lot of Queens in New York City, I’m happy to play there."

Sharapova battles past Kenin to reach fourth round in New York

(9/1/17) Maria Sharapova's mix of grit and power were enough to see off American teenager Sofia Kenin 7-5 6-2 in the third round of the U.S. Open on Friday.

Sharapova, who made her competitive comeback in April after a 15-month ban following a positive test for meldonium, battled through the first two rounds and it seemed that she would also struggle against the 18-year-old Kenin.

Hitting winners and unforced errors in almost equal measure in the opening set, the former world number one however, dug deep to take the advantage.

Kenin's tank was empty in the second set and Sharapova, who next faces Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova, opened up a 3-0 lead and ended the contest on the first match point when the American sent a backhand wide.

"We had never faced each other and she came out having nothing to lose and it's always dangerous so I'm happy I went through," said Sharapova, who won her only U.S. Open title in 2006.

Sporting a leather-collared black dress encrusted with crystal, Sharapova made a rock star entrance on a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium to close the night session.

However, she made nine unforced errors in the first three games, which continued throughout the first set but she broke in the 12th game when Kenin could not retrieve a powerful flat forehand and she then raced through the second set.

It was a relief for Sharapova after she had to endure two three-set matches to reach the third round.

"Coming into this match playing two three-setters, I'm just happy I got it done in two. Give my body a little bit of a break," she said.

"I took a day off yesterday just as a prevention.

"I did not see the ball too well at the beginning of the match, I wasn't getting the shots that I wanted ... but got better as the match went on."

American Kenin faces resurgent Sharapova at U.S. Open

(9/1/17) Eighteen-year-old American Sofia Kenin will look to put an end to Russian Maria Sharapova's return to grand slam play when they meet for the first time under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday night.

Sharapova is still looking to shake off the rust that came while serving a 15-month doping ban, but looked solid during the biggest moments of her first two matches.

Kenin will be one of five Americans in action to kick off the Labor Day weekend on Friday, all of who can expect a warm reception from the vocal New York crowd.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Venus Williams will battle Maria Sakkari of Greece in the morning. Her big-serving countryman John Isner will kick off the night session on Arthur Ashe.

Over on Louis Armstrong Stadium, 24-year-old American Sloane Stephens will continue to pursue her first grand slam victory when she faces Ashleigh Barty of Australia.

Sam Querrey will look to end a grand slam drought that dates back to 2003 on the American men's side when he battles Radu Albot of Moldova.

Rising Canadian 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov, who played through qualifiers to enter into the tournament, will attempt to dispatch 22-year-old Brit Kyle Edmund.

Sharapova, Federer embrace New York state of mind

(9/1/17) Roger Federer has conquered virtually everything in his two decades on tour but even the greatest tennis player of all time can't beat New York's notorious traffic snarl-ups.

The US Open, where the Swiss star has been champion on five occasions, is staged in the New York borough of Queen's, across the East River from glamorous Manhattan, where players and media stay for the fortnight.

However, the 10-mile journey can often take an hour or more during the working week.

It's one of the many challenges, on and off the court, which reinforce the city's reputation as no place for shrinking violets.

Federer has found one way of making the tournament come to him by practicing on public courts in Central Park.

"I was like, ‘Yeah, anything that doesn't make me drive very long,'" said Federer.

Fellow superstar Maria Sharapova, never one short of confidence, admits that when she first saw the city of 8.5 million souls, she hated it.

"When I first came to New York I was intimidated by the noise, the traffic, the people. But now I love it," said the Russian star who was 2006 champion at the US Open.

The feeling appears to be mutual.

When Sharapova played her first Grand Slam match since the end of her 15-month doping ban on the 24,000-capacity Arthur Ashe stadium on Monday, she wore a black dress, dotted with Swarovski crystals.

"It's prime time baby!" said Sharapova.

The Ashe stadium, the largest tennis venue in the world, can be a constant cauldron of noise.

At night, the din is ratcheted up with music and commercials thumping out during changeovers while fans chat and fidget, usually on their way back from the bars around the sprawling venue.

"It's intimidating, it's so big, there's so much going on. The screens are working during the points. Yeah, there's a lot of people moving and talking. It's not easy to play in," said Canadian 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov.

Shapovalov even interacted with a spectator who was merrily enjoying his evening out.

"I noticed a couple of guys had a little bit too much to drink. I mean, some of them were standing and, like, just talking to me as if we're buddies.

"I was up a break in one game, I think it was probably 40-15, I just miss a backhand. He's like, 'Ah, no.' I'm like, 'Don't worry, man, I got this.'"

The noise on Ashe is always impossible to ignore, although it wasn't to everyone's taste on Tuesday when the $150 million roof was shut all day as torrential rain washed away most of the programme.

With fans happily chatting away, the sound turned the arena into a giant echo chamber, much to the irritation of Rafael Nadal

"I understand it's a show, but under the roof we need to be a little bit more strict about the noise," said the world number one, a two-time champion at the tournament.

Most players who experience Ashe insist that you have to get the crowd on your side -- otherwise you are doomed.

"It's hard to beat a New York crowd when they're for you -- it's a lot to go against," said CoCo Vandeweghe of the United States.

Shapovalov, Sharapova set to share Arthur Ashe spotlight

(9/1/17) Denis Shapovalov may not be old enough to drink in New York but is quickly becoming the toast of the Big Apple and the 18-year-old Canadian will again have a chance to light up the U.S. Open when he takes on Briton Kyle Edmund.

After knocking off eighth seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the Canadian giant killer returns to the Arthur Ashe Stadium court chasing a place in the fourth round.

Shapovalov's hit list includes back-to-back wins over U.S. Open champions Rafa Nadal and Juan Martin De Potro at the recent Rogers Cup in Montreal, and the Canadian will now try to add the 42nd ranked Edmund to his list of scalps.

Another of the tennis young guns in Croatia's Borna Coric, who took down fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the second round, finds 28th seeded South African Kevin Anderson standing between him and a fourth round berth.

Against some criticism, Maria Sharapova will be back on Arthur Ashe for the third straight match where she will face American wild card Sofia Kenin.

Playing her first grand slam since returning from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova has enjoyed wild fan support every time she steps on to the court but not everyone is happy to see the five-time winner back in action.

Fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki ripped U.S. Open organizers for putting her on an outside court while Sharapova soaked up the applause on Arthur Ashe.

"When you look at center court, and I understand completely the business side of things, but someone who comes back from a drugs sentence, performance-enhancing drugs, and then all of a

sudden gets to play every single match on center court, I think that's a questionable thing to do," said Wozniacki. "It doesn't set a good example."

There will be no complaints from the home crowd about seeing ninth seed Venus Williams or 10th seed John Isner on the Arthur Ashe stage.

Williams, a twice U.S. Open champion, takes on Greece's Maria Sakkari before turning over the spotlight to the big-hitting Isner, who goes up against Germany's 23rd seed Mischa Zverev.

At the US Open, Sharapova sniping practically a sport itself

(8/31/17) Listen to the crowds, and Maria Sharapova seems as popular as ever.

Listen to the competitors, and it's clear she hasn't been welcomed back with open arms.

Tennis isn't the only game going on at the U.S. Open, where complaining about Sharapova has become practically a sport itself.

''Everyone has their own opinion,'' No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina said Thursday.

And they aren't shy about sharing it.

Some rivals don't like that she keeps getting to play on Arthur Ashe Stadium - and guess where she's headed again Friday night?

''When you look on center court, I understand completely the business side of things and everything, but someone who comes back from a drug sentence and performance-enhancing drugs and then all of a sudden gets to play every single match on center court, I think that's a questionable thing to do,'' No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki told Ekstrabladet TV of Denmark after losing on an outside court Wednesday night.

''I think it doesn't set a good example.''

Others don't like that Sharapova's even here at all.

The Russian required a wild card to get into the tournament because of her low ranking and the U.S. Tennis Association was happy to provide it. That's what the organization has traditionally done for its former champions in need, and Sharapova won the event in 2006.

But this was different. She wasn't an injured veteran, or an up-and-coming youngster. Her ranking fell because she'd been suspended for doping, a cheat in the eyes of some peers.

Give her spot to someone else, they felt.

''Wild cards are appointed by the USTA. I can't say I agree. I wish it was an American instead, selfishly, because it is a USA tournament,'' American CoCo Vandeweghe said.

''I know from receiving a wild card here, it can be a huge platform to kind of progress through maybe a developing junior or someone that's coming back from injury or, you know, just somebody that's on the cusp, next American out that has an opportunity to kind of help their own ranking.''

But there's no young player, American or otherwise, who has Sharapova's box office appeal.

She's a five-time Grand Slam champion who hits with force and dresses with flair. People want to see her from their seats or on their screens, whether she's ranked No. 1 or 100.

''Tournament directors, people around, they would love to watch her play,'' former U.S. Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova said. ''You can see after her first match how the crowd welcomed her back.''

Sharapova beat No. 2 Simona Halep that night in her first Grand Slam match in 16 months and believed that had ended the sniping about her situation.

''I think with the way that I played Monday night, I don't think there are any more questions,'' she said.

Turns out, they were only just beginning.

Asked about Sharapova, Eugenie Bouchard replied that her thoughts were already public. In case anyone forgot what they were, she called Sharapova a ''cheater'' earlier this year when her suspension ended.

Others are more forgiving. The heart drug meldonium had only recently been placed on the banned list when Sharapova tested positive for it at the 2016 Australian Open, and Kuznetsova said Sharapova paid the price for her mistake.

''She did her time. I think now it has to be over, the talk,'' Kuznetsova said.

It probably won't, though.

Despite what she's done in the past, she's just a 146th-ranked wild card now, not the kind of player who gets unlimited access to the most exclusive real estate on the property. Yet she'll be on center court for the third time in three matches Friday when she faces American Sofia Kenin in the second night match on Ashe.

Win that one, and she'll be in another featured match during Labor Day weekend. Then there would be plenty more time to talk about her.

''She's here,'' No. 25 seed Daria Gavrilova said. ''Can't do anything about it.''

Caroline Wozniacki: It's unacceptable that I am on Court 5 while Maria Sharapova gets to play on Centre

(8/31/17) The ill-feeling between two of tennis’s leading women is only likely to deepen after Caroline Wozniacki objected to the way that a doping offender - Maria Sharapova - has been given plum spots on Arthur Ashe Stadium for her first two matches at the US Open.

Fifth seed Wozniacki was originally shunted out to Court 5 for her own second-round match on Wednesday, before a late shift moved her and her opponent Ekaterina Makarova to Court 17. And after losing the match by a 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 margin, Wozniacki complained that Sharapova had been granted preferential treatment.

“Putting out a schedule where the No. 5 is playing on Court 5, fifth match on after 11pm, I think that’s unacceptable,” Wozniacki said afterwards.

“And when you look on Centre Court – I understand completely the business side of things – but someone who comes back from a drugs sentence, performance-enhancing drugs, and all of a sudden gets to play every single match on Centre Court, I think that’s a questionable thing to do.”

Wednesday’s schedule had been an unusually difficult one to compile, because the backlog created by Tuesday’s persistent rain required no fewer than 87 matches to be completed in the day. Sharapova was scheduled third on Arthur Ashe Stadium against Timea Babos, and overcame a slow start to win 6-7, 6-4, 6-1.

Wozniacki was upset at the courts she was given Credit: AP

“I think it doesn’t set a good example,” said Wozniacki, “and I think someone who has fought their way back from injury and is five in the world deserves to play on a bigger court than Court No. 5. I think they should probably look into what they need to do in the future.”

This outburst has not come out of the blue. Wozniacki, who is a close friend of Sharapova’s old rival Serena Williams, has long been critical of the way many tournament directors – and even the bosses of the Women’s Tennis Association itself - have welcomed Sharapova back to the tour.

"I think it's disrespectful to other players and the WTA," she said in March, when news emerged that Sharapova would make her comeback in Stuttgart, at a tournament which started two days before the end of the doping ban. “Obviously the rules are twisted and turned in favour of who wants to do what.”

A few weeks later, Sharapova’s agent Max Eisenbud hit back in an unsolicited email to the American tennis writer Ben Rothenberg in which he called Wozniacki – along with the equally outspoken Agnieszka Radwanska - a “journeyman” and suggested that she wanted to keep Sharapova out of tournaments in order to boost her own chances.

Sharapova feels the love at the U.S. Open

(8/31/17) Maria Sharapova has been inspired by the reaction from fans, and felt the respect from other players, since coming back from her 15-month doping ban, the Russian told reporters following her second-round victory at the U.S. Open on Wednesday.

"I've had an amazing reaction from fans since I've been back and that's been very special. I mean, I felt it while I was away. I felt it in a real presence since I've been back," she said.

"It's a very special feeling."

Sharapova won an electric three-setter against world number two Simona Halep on Monday to get the tournament off to a thrilling start.

Asked if she was at peace with fellow players and fans who were disappointed that she was found to be using meldonium after it had been added to the list of banned substances, she was blunt.

"With the way that I played Monday night, I don't think there are any more questions," she said.

Sharapova has maintained that she was unaware of the policy change regarding the drug, which she had been taking for years before it was moved to the banned list in 2016.

In addition to fan support, Sharapova said she feels the respect of other players.

"I definitely feel the respect from the athletes. Certainly when I play against them, in terms of the level they play with," she said.

"That's important to me. I think from a respect level, when you're able to respect your rivals and compatriots, that's really important, and I feel that."

The 30-year-old followed up Monday's big win with a come-from-behind victory over Hungarian Timea Babos 6-7(4) 6-4 6-1 on Wednesday.

Next up for Sharapova is a third-round meeting with American Sofia Kenin on Friday.

Mats Point: Never-say-die Sharapova is a rock star

(8/31/17) Maria Sharapova did not just reach the third round of the U.S. Open on Wednesday, she also showed that she is a rock star who never disappoints her fans, according to former world number one Mats Wilander.

The Russian, back on the grand slam scene for the first time since she returned from a 15-month doping ban in April, beat Hungary's Timea Babos 6-7(4) 6-4 6-1 on Arthur Ashe Stadium despite playing below her best.

"The saying 'the heart of a champion' was invented for her," Wilander, who is at the U.S. as an analyst for Eurosport, said in a daily chat with Reuters.

"She does not have a mental meltdown, it's amazing. She keeps hanging in, hanging in even if she's not playing well and expectations are through the roof for the rest of the people.

"She could easily have let go in the second set but as soon as she turns the second set around it's over."

Sharapova saved two break points to hold for 3-3 in the second set and after that won nine of the 11 remaining games and Wilander said her drive was key to her success.

"It's not enough to be a good competitor. Good competitors, they want to win. But with her you have the feeling she needs to win," he said.

"Today was another typical Maria Sharapova performance. She's been like that throughout her career. The great champions are not always those who have won the most, the great champions become great champions when people have expectations.

"Great champions always deliver. What people come to see, they give it to them.

"They don't come to see Sharapova win, they come to see Sharapova because they know they're going to get their absolute best fight.

"She delivers every single time. That's talent. She's a rock star."

Maria Sharapova versus Timea Babos: match stats

(8/31/17) The following are the key statistics from Russian Maria Sharapova's 6-7(4) 6-4 6-1 second-round victory over Hungarian Timea Babos at the U.S. Open on Wednesday.

Sharapova Babos

Aces 12 0

Double faults 6 1

Break points won 8/13 4/10

Winners 39 13

Net points won 7/10 6/9

Unforced errors 36 24

Total points won 108 84

Match time: Two hours and 19 minutes

Sharapova sees off Babos to extend New York stay

(8/31/17) Maria Sharapova showed she was willing to extend her grand slam comeback when the former world number one defeated Hungary's Timea Babos 6-7(4) 6-4 6-1 on Wednesday to advance to the U.S. Open third round.

The Russian, in her first appearance at a major since she returned from a 15-month doping ban in April, did not have the same inspiration that helped her beat world number two Simona Halep in the opening round but her willpower was enough.

Sharapova, who was granted a wildcard entry to the tournament, made too many unforced errors in a scrappy first set that featured six breaks of serve.

Once she found her groove midway through the second set, however, the 30-year-old, sporting a pale peach pink crystal-encrusted dress, was too strong for Babos, who bowed out on the second match point when she sailed a backhand long, triggering a huge roar on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Maria Sharapova - Unstoppable: My Life So Far

(8/30/17) (Hardcover, Kindle, Audio) From Maria Sharapova, one of our fiercest female athletes, the captivating?and candid?story of her rise from nowhere to tennis stardom, and the unending fight to stay on top.

In 2004, in a stunning upset against the two-time defending champion Serena Williams, seventeen-year-old Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon, becoming an overnight sensation. Out of virtual anonymity, she launched herself onto the international stage. “Maria Mania” was born. Sharapova became a name and face recognizable worldwide. Her success would last: she went on to hold the number-one WTA ranking multiple times, to win four more Grand Slam tournaments, and to become one of the highest-grossing female athletes in the world.

And then?at perhaps the peak of her career?Sharapova came up against the toughest challenge yet: during the 2016 Australian Open, she was charged by the ITF with taking the banned substance meldonium, only recently added to the ITF’s list. The resulting suspension would keep her off the professional courts for fifteen months?a frighteningly long time for any athlete. The media suggested it might be fateful.

But Sharapova’s career has always been driven by her determination and by her dedication to hard work. Her story doesn’t begin with the 2004 Wimbledon championship, but years before, in a small Russian town, where as a five-year-old she played on drab neighborhood courts with precocious concentration. It begins when her father, convinced his daughter could be a star, risked everything to get them to Florida, that sacred land of tennis academies. It begins when the two arrived with only seven hundred dollars and knowing only a few words of English. From that, Sharapova scraped together one of the most influential sports careers in history.

Here, for the first time, is the whole story, and in her own words. Sharapova’s is an unforgettable saga of dedication and fortune. She brings us inside her pivotal matches and illuminates the relationships that have shaped her?with coaches, best friends, boyfriends, and Yuri, her coach, manager, father, and most dedicated fan, describing with honesty and affection their oft-scrutinized relationship. She writes frankly about the suspension. As Sharapova returns to the professional circuit, one thing is clear: the ambition to win that drove her from the public courts of Russia to the manicured lawns of Wimbledon has not diminished.

Sharapova’s Unstoppable is a powerful memoir, resonant in its depiction of the will to win?whatever the odds.

US Open glance: Sharapova, Venus, del Potro in action

(8/29/17) A quick look at the U.S. Open:


Maria Sharapova plays in the second round in Arthur Ashe Stadium against Timea Babos, trying to follow up on her upset of No. 2 seeded Simona Halep on Day 1.

Sharapova is a five-time major champion, including at the 2006 U.S. Open, and a former No. 1 who needed a wild card from the U.S. Tennis Association to get into the field after a 15-month doping suspension caused her ranking to plummet.

Babos, meanwhile, is ranked 59th and has only once made it as far as the third round at a Grand Slam tournament, getting to that stage at Flushing Meadows a year ago. She lost in the first round at the other three majors this year.

Other past major champions in action Wednesday include Venus Williams (against Oceane Dodin of France) and Juan Martin del Potro (against Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland).

The night's final match in Ashe is intriguing: No. 8 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, the runner-up at the 2008 Australian Open, against 18-year-old qualifier Denis Shapovalov of Canada. Shapovalov became the youngest man to reach a Masters semifinal, doing so this month at a hard-court tournament in Montreal.


Sunny. High of 81 degrees (27 Celsius).


Rain. High of 68 degrees (20 Celsius). All but nine matches were postponed to Wednesday.


Seeded winners in the men's first round: No. 1 Rafael Nadal.

Seeded winners in the women's first round: No. 1 Karolina Pliskova, No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko, No. 15 Madison Keys, No. 23 Barbora Strycova.


Seeded losers in the women's first round: No. 6 Angelique Kerber, No. 28 Lesia Tsurenko.


2 - Number of defending women's champions at the U.S. Open who have lost in the first round in the professional era, which began in 1968: Angelique Kerber on Tuesday and Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2005.


''All the noise stays inside and this is difficult.'' - Rafael Nadal, complaining about how loud it is in Arthur Ashe Stadium with the roof closed.

Maria Sharapova Podcast

(8/29/17) Mental Performance, Work-Life Balance, and the Rise to the Top – Maria Sharapova: Listen.

Sharapova gets down to business at US Open

(8/29/17) Maria Sharapova begins to explore just how well she can finish at the US Open on Wednesday after a successful and emotional Grand Slam comeback following a 15-month doping ban.

The 30-year-old Russian, who ousted second seed Simona Halep in her opener, faces Hungary's Timea Babos for the first time in the second round of the year's final Grand Slam tournament.

And with Halep and British seventh seed Johanna Konta both ousted already, Sharapova would not see another top-10 foe until potentially 10th-ranked Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter-finals even as three top-10 foes lurk as possible semi-final rivals.

The draw is wide open for a deep run by Sharapova despite her relative lack of matches and nagging injuries that allowed her only one hardcourt tuneup to the Open.

"From the moment that I've been here, I've really understood what this means to me, to be back and to be playing," Sharapova said.

"Not playing a lot of matches coming into this, it almost seemed like I had no right to (beat Halep). And I somehow did. I think that is what I'm most proud of."

Sharapova served a 15-month doping ban after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, returning in April to fanfare and controversy.

She missed Wimbledon with a thigh injury after being snubbed for a French Open wildcard but was given a wildcard into the US Open and wants to make the most of it.

"I was obviously extremely excited. I realized how long it had been since I played at the US Open," said Sharapova, who missed three of the prior four New York showdowns.

"Since I've come back, I feel like I'm on a team. I'm not just winning for myself, but I'm winning for everyone that has stood behind me. That is a very special feeling to have."

Applause and support from the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium bolstered her confidence and enthusiasm against Halep as she improved to 18-0 in night matches on the main court.

"So much. So special. I felt the support in the States," Sharapova said. "This is obviously a different scale, completely different caliber to anywhere you play in the world. It's electric."

Spanish third-seed Garbine Muguruza, the reigning Wimbledon champion, can reach the US Open third round for the first time by beating China's Duan Ying-Ying.

US ninth seed Venus Williams, this year's Wimbledon and Australian Open runner-up, meets France's Oceane Dodin while Danish fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki faces Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

On the men's side, German 20-year-old fourth seed Alexander Zverev, the top ranked player in his half of the draw, meets Croatian Borna Coric in the second round as he tries to crack the final eight at a major for the first time.

"You have to improve everything a little bit," Zverev said. "Obviously you can't be satisfied after a first-round win. I want to go deeper."

Sharapova sparkles on return to grand slam stage

(8/28/17) Maria Sharapova proved she will be someone to contend with for the U.S. Open crown after the Russian wild card outlasted second seed Simona Halep 6-4 4-6 6-3 on Monday, to get the year's final grand slam off to an electrifying start.

Still shaking off the rust from a 15-month doping ban and a string of nagging injuries, the 30-year-old Sharapova needed all her skill, determination and two hours and 44 minutes to snatch victory in front of a packed Arthur Ashe stadium.

The victory becomes the highlight of what has been a torturous comeback for the former world number one, who returned to tennis in April after being banned after testing positive for metabolic modulator meldonium at last year's Australian Open.

Her progress has been slowed by a thigh injury that forced her out of the Italian Open in May and more recently left arm issues in that took her out of the second round at Stanford earlier this month.

However, there was no hint of distress against an in-form Halep as she improved her record to 7-0 against the feisty Romanian in an opening round clash that was played with the intensity more befitting of a final.

Factbox: Maria Sharapova v Simona Halep - match stats

(8/28/17) Double faults 7 4

Break points won 5/22 4/10

Winners 60 15

Net points won 4/5 4/6

Unforced errors 64 14

Total points won 113 108

Match time: Two hours and 42 minutes

Sharapova edges No. 2 Halep at US Open in Grand Slam return

(8/28/17) So much about Maria Sharapova was the same as it ever was during her first Grand Slam match since a 15-month doping suspension: the shot-punctuating shrieks, the aggressive baseline style, the terrific returning, the sometimes-shaky serving.

Another familiar sight: The five-time major champion gutted out a victory.

Sharapova recovered after faltering midway through the match and emerged to beat No. 2-seeded Simona Halep 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 at the U.S. Open on Monday night to reach the second round.

''This girl has a lot of grit and she's not going anywhere,'' Sharapova told the crowd in an on-court interview.

After leading by a set and 4-1 in the second, Sharapova showed some fatigue and rust, dropping five games in a row. But in the third, Sharapova regained control by going ahead 3-0, using her power to keep two-time French Open runner-up Halep under pressure.

Sharapova had not played at a Grand Slam tournament since January 2016, when she tested positive for the newly banned heart drug meldonium during the Australian Open. It was as if every one of Sharapova's winners - and she compiled 60, 45 more than Halep - was her way of declaring, ''I'm back!''

When a Halep shot sailed long to end the match after more than 2 1/2 hours, Sharapova dropped to her knees on court, then covered her face as her eyes welled with tears.

''I just thought that was another day, another opportunity, another match,'' Sharapova said. ''But this was so much more. I tried not to think about it.''

The 30-year-old Russian was allowed back on the tour this April, but she was denied a wild-card invitation for the French Open the next month. The U.S. Tennis Association did grant a wild card to Sharapova, who was once ranked No. 1 but is currently 146th.

That is 144 spots below Halep, who is among eight women that entered the U.S. Open with a chance to top the WTA rankings by tournament's end. The draw at Flushing Meadows randomly paired the two players, providing a buzz-generating matchup that managed to live up to the hype on Day 1 at the year's last Grand Slam tournament.

It was a tremendously entertaining and high-quality contest, more befitting a final than a first-rounder.

These two women have, indeed, faced off with a Grand Slam title at stake: Sharapova beat Halep in the 2014 French Open final, part of what is now her 7-0 head-to-head record in the matchup.

On Monday, they traded stinging shots, often with Sharapova - dressed in all black, from her visor to her dress that sparkled under the lights, to her socks and shoes - aiming to end exchanges and Halep hustling into place to extend them.

Points would last 10 or 12 strokes, or more, repeatedly leaving a sellout crowd of 23,771 in Arthur Ashe Stadium clapping and yelling and high-fiving, no matter which player won them. The chair umpire repeatedly admonished spectators to hush.

Halep blinked at the end of the hour-long first set, double-faulting to face a break point, then watching Sharapova punish a 71 mph second serve with a forehand return winner. That was Sharapova's sixth return winner; she would finish with 14, more than enough to counter her seven double-faults.

It was quickly 4-1 for Sharapova in the second set and she held a break point there to allow her to go up 5-1 and serve for the victory. But she couldn't convert it. Then, only then, did Sharapova struggle for a bit. Her footwork was a bit off. Her forehand lost its way. She would end up losing that game and the next four, too, as Halep managed to force a third set.

But with the outcome in the balance, Sharapova once again looked as if she had never been away. She raced ahead 3-0 in the third, then 5-2. And this time, she did not let Halep back in, improving to 11-0 in first-round matches in New York.

This was by far the day's most significant match, no matter happened later in the men's encounter in Ashe between No. 4 Alexander Zverev and qualifier Darian King of Barbados.

Earlier Monday, seven-time major champion Venus Williams picked up a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory against Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia, a 19-year-old qualifier who is ranked 135th, joining past Wimbledon winners Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova in the second round.

But No. 7 seed Johanna Konta, a Wimbledon semifinalist just last month, was bounced by 78th-ranked Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

''I don't take anything for granted,'' Konta said. ''I think it would be quite obnoxious of me to come in here expecting I have a right to be in second week.''

And in another surprise, 13th-seeded Jack Sock of the United States was eliminated 6-2, 7-6 (12), 1-6, 5-7, 6-4 by 73rd-ranked Jordan Thompson of Australia.

Sharapova-Halep match headlines Day one at the U.S. Open

(8/28/17) The 2017 U.S. Open is set to begin with near-perfect weather and a much-anticipated match.

That comes Monday night when No. 2-seeded Simona Halep takes on former No. 1 and five-time major champion Maria Sharapova, who was given a wild-card entry to the U.S. Open after returning from a 15-month doping ban. Halep is winless against Sharapova in six previous meetings.

Play begins in the day session in Arthur Ashe Stadium with Wimbledon champ Garbine Muguruza against American Varvara Lepchenko. The 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic is next up against aptly named Tennys Sandrgen of the U.S. And seven-time major champion Venus Williams plays Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia.

Other big names on Monday’s schedule include No. 4 Alexander Zverev, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and top American John Isner.

Sharapova vs. Halep at U.S. Open; Federer-Nadal could meet in semi

(8/25/17) Maria Sharapova’s first Grand Slam match in more than 1 1/2 years will come against No. 2-seeded Simona Halep at the U.S. Open.

Sharapova’s first-round matchup with two-time French Open runner-up Halep was set up by Friday’s draw, which also put Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the same side of the men’s bracket, meaning they could meet only in the semifinals.

The U.S. Tennis Association awarded a wild-card invitation to Sharapova, who is ranked only 147th after returning from a 15-month doping suspension in April, so she could have been randomly placed to face any other player.

Sharapova was kicked off the tour after testing positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

Her five major championships include the 2006 U.S. Open.

The year’s last Grand Slam tournament starts Monday.

Nadal is seeded No. 1 at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2010 after returning to the ATP’s top ranking this week. Federer is seeded No. 3. They have played 37 head-to-head matches, including 12 at major tournaments — at least twice in a final — but never at Flushing Meadows in any round.

Federer beat Nadal in the Australian Open final in January. Nadal then won his 10th French Open trophy in June, and Federer won his eighth Wimbledon title in July.

Federer owns a record 19 Grand Slam championships. Nadal ranks second among men with 15.

The bottom half’s semifinal could be No. 2 Andy Murray vs. No. 4 Alexander Zverev.

The potential men’s quarterfinals could be Nadal against No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov, Federer against No. 6 Dominic Thiem, Murray against No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Zverev against No. 5 Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion.

Possible women’s quarterfinal matchups on the draw’s bottom half include Halep or Sharapova against No. 7 Johanna Konta of Britain, a semifinalist at Wimbledon; and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza against No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki or No. 9 Venus Williams, a seven-time major champion and the runner-up at the All England Club last month at age 37.

Williams’ sister, 23-time major champion Serena, is not playing in the U.S. Open because she is pregnant and expecting to give birth in September.

On the top half of the bracket, the quarterfinals could be No. 1 Karolina Pliskova against 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova; and defending champion Angelique Kerber or French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko against No. 4 Elina Svitolina or No. 15 Madison Keys of the United States.

Kerber beat Pliskova in last year’s final in New York and moved up to No. 1 in the rankings for the first time. But Kerber’s 2017 has been rough, including a first-round loss at the French Open, and she is seeded No. 6 at the U.S. Open.

The 30-year-old Sharapova was eligible to make her return to Grand Slam action at the French Open in May, but that country’s tennis federation declined to offer her a wild card. Sharapova then was going to try to qualify for Wimbledon in June, but she ended up skipping the grass-court portion of the season because of an injured left thigh.

Sharapova has been participating in tournaments via wild-card invitations, beginning on red clay at Stuttgart, Germany, in April.

Sharapova was 19 when she won her U.S. Open trophy. Two years before that, at 17, Sharapova won her first major title at Wimbledon. She has since completed a career Grand Slam.

John McEnroe on Maria

(8/25/17) Maria Sharapova got a wild-card entry into the U.S. Open main draw despite a ranking of No. 147 as a result of a 15-month doping ban that ended in April. She tested positive for a newly banned heart drug at the 2016 Australian Open. The French Open chose not to give her a wild card and she skipped Wimbledon because of a thigh injury.

''Her suspension ... was a lot harsher than almost any other suspension that I've been aware of in any other sports,'' he said. ''If (NFL players) get caught red-handed taking steroids, they're suspended for four games the first time.''

McEnroe says the 2006 U.S. Open champion is one to watch.

''She's someone who knows how to win,'' he said. ''I don't know where she is fitness-wise and emotionally. She's been through a lot, and obviously, a lot of it was self-imposed. But on a given day, she could beat anyone out there. No question.''

Questions abound as Sharapova returns to U.S. Open

(8/25/17) Maria Sharapova can expect a warm reception from fans in New York when she makes her grand slam return at the U.S. Open next week following a 15-month doping ban, but just how competitive she will be is hard to say, ESPN analyst Chris Evert said.

The former world number one, who returned to action in April after a 15-month ban, was awarded a main-draw wildcard for the tournament she won in 2006 after French officials denied her that same courtesy for the French Open earlier this year.

"The American crowd is going to be very respectful of Maria and I would think she will get a warm reception coming back," Evert, a winner of 18 majors during her career, said on a conference call this week.

"Most people think that she has paid her dues and it's time to get back on the circuit."

Sharapova tested positive for the drug meldonium in 2016, which had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned substances list in January of that year.

The 30-year-old Russian, a winner of five grand slam titles, said she was unaware of the change.

The bigger question is how her game will match up against a competitive women's field and whether the injuries that kept her out of the grasscourt season and parts of the hardcourt season have healed.

"She really had a great start this summer but was injury prone," Evert said.

Sharapova's U.S. Open preparations were disrupted by an arm injury suffered during a first-round win at the Stanford Classic earlier this month. She then withdrew from events in Toronto and Cincinnati as a precautionary measure before the final grand slam of the year.

"Lack of tournament play really wreaks havoc on your body. Not only physical but I'm sure mental and emotional as well," Evert said.

"So if it's a healthy Maria Sharapova, you can't put anything past her. She looked good two months ago so with a good draw, it's possible she gets to the second week."

American tennis great John McEnroe said the reaction from the notoriously vocal U.S. Open crowd to Sharapova will be "somewhat mixed," but said interest in her performance will be at an all-time high.

"She's obviously the biggest name in the draw so that's going to provide some interest. A lot of us are interested to see how she does, there's no question."

One-on-one with @MariaSharapova

(8/24/17) #USOpen Exclusive: one-on-one with @MariaSharapova at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center: Video.

Maria Sharapova Reveals What’s On Her Phone

(8/24/17) ( Number of contacts in phone: 439.

Number of unread emails: 0. My mind would be cluttered otherwise.

Most-liked photo in your Instagram feed: It’s probably a bikini picture if I had to guess. But I’m hoping it’s a tennis action shot!

Most-listened-to track on iTunes or Spotify: Right now it’s Kings of Leon’s “Muchacho.”

Strangest autocorrect mishap: When I type in my last name, it changes it to “Sugarpova,” which is actually [the name of] my candy company.

Craziest place you’ve ever lost your phone: I have never lost it. But the amount of screens I’ve cracked makes up for that.

Alarm settings: Don’t use the alarm. Early riser.

Biggest time-wasting app: GarageBand.

When do you feel compelled to charge your phone? [It’s always] 100%. Yes, that’s right: 100%. I consistently wear a battery case.

Are there times when you try to stay off your phone entirely? Always during practice or training.

Favorite fitness app: Nike+ Training Club App is the only one I’ve ever tried.

Cities listed in weather app: Sochi, Russia; New York City; Longboat Key, Florida; Manhattan Beach, California; Tokyo; Indian Wells, California.

Most recent Uber ride: Laurel Canyon to Manhattan Beach ($78).

Favorite podcasts: Lewis Howes’s School of Greatness; TED Radio Hour; The Tim Ferriss Show.

People you FaceTime most often: My mom and my best friend, Estelle.

App you wish someone would invent: Please don’t invent any more.

Sharapova determined to prove point on Slam return

(8/23/17) Former world number one Maria Sharapova makes her first Grand Slam appearance next week since serving a 15-month doping suspension, bringing renewed passion and resolve to the US Open.

The 30-year-old Russian was given a wildcard into the tournament by the US Tennis Association (USTA), a move critics complained about earlier in the season but another key step in the road back for the five-time Grand Slam winner.

"When it comes to tennis, good or bad -- there's really only one thing that I know for certain -- I've missed it," Sharapova wrote on the Players' Tribune website.

"Though these last two years have been tougher -— so much tougher -— than I ever could have anticipated... my passion for the game has never wavered. If anything, it has only grown stronger."

Sharapova was issued a two-year suspension after testing positive for the banned heart and blood boosting drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the ban on appeal.

She said that she had taken it for several years and did not know it had been placed on the banned list at the start of 2016.

Sharapova made her return in April at Stuttgart, reaching the semi-finals as a wildcard, but such invitations sparked criticism from some WTA rivals, saying she should have to work her way back without such benefits, some suggesting a life ban.

"I'm aware of what many of my peers have said about me and how critical of me some of them have been," she wrote.

"If you're a human being with a normal, beating heart... I don't think that sort of thing will ever fully be possible to ignore."

Sharapova was refused a wildcard by French Open organizers and missed Wimbledon with a thigh injury, so the US Open will be her first Grand Slam event since last year's Australian Open.

Shaking off criticism after the French Open snub, Sharapova tweeted, "If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, everyday. No words, games or actions will ever stop me from reaching my own dreams. And I have many."

Sharapova has missed three of the past four US Opens, her last visit ending in the 2014 fourth round.

The USTA defended its wildcard offer, saying, "Her suspension under the terms of the tennis anti-doping program was completed and therefore was not one of the factors weighed in our wildcard selection process."

"Consistent with past practice, a wildcard was provided to a past US champion who needed the wildcard for entry into the main draw."

Former world number one Sharapova won the 2006 US Open as well as Wimbledon in 2004, the 2008 Australian Open and the 2012 and 2014 French Opens.

"I'm sure this is a great moment for her to have an opportunity to be back to a place where she has done so well," seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams said.

- Sharapova plays catch-up -

Sharapova was bolstered by fans with "Welcome back Maria" signs in Germany and cheering support last month in Stanford, her first US match in more than two years.

"I feel like I just want to hug everyone and say thank you," Sharapova said.

Sharapova defeated American Jennifer Brady 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 in her Stanford opener but suffered a left forearm injury and has not played competitively since.

"I feel like I'm playing catch-up against everyone who has had a head start," she said of being hurt during US Open tuneup events.

Sharapova granted wild-card entry into US Open

(8/15/17) Maria Sharapova has been granted a wild-card invitation for the U.S. Open's main draw.

Sharapova is among eight women who were given entry into the 128-player field by the U.S. Tennis Association on Tuesday — and by far the most noteworthy.

The former No. 1-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including at the 2006 U.S. Open, will be participating in her first Grand Slam tournament in more than 1 1/2 years. Sharapova has not entered a major tournament since the Australian Open in January 2016, when she tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium.

That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

The U.S. Open starts in Flushing Meadows on Aug. 28.

Sharapova pulls out of Western and Southern Open

(8/12/17) An ongoing left arm injury has forced former world number one Maria Sharapova to withdraw from the Western and Southern Open.

With her eyes on the upcoming US Open at Flushing Meadows later this month, Sharapova announced her decision to pull out of the WTA Premier Five event in Cincinnati on Saturday.

Sharapova – back on Tour since April after serving a 15-month ban for doping – was handed a wildcard for the tournament and was due to face French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the opening round.

However, the five-time grand slam champion will skip Cincinnati, having sat out the Rogers Cup in Toronto following her withdrawal at the Bank of the West Classic.

"I arrived in Cincinnati yesterday eager to play. However, following the doctor’s advice on-site, as a precaution for the US Open, I am unfortunately withdrawing from the tournament with the left forearm injury I sustained in Stanford," Sharapova said.

"I want to thank the tournament for the wildcard opportunity and really look forward to competing here next year."

Sharapova made a comeback from an eight-week absence with a leg problem in her first-round win over Jennifer Brady in Stanford.

But an arm injury forced the Russian to pull out ahead of her scheduled round-two clash against Lesia Tsurenko, and she has not returned since.

Maria Sharapova out of Rogers Cup, Canada’s Andreescu in main draw

(8/3/17) Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova will miss next week’s Rogers Cup in Toronto due to an injury.

Organizers say she is suffering from "pain in her left forearm."

Toronto’s Bianca Andreescu will take Sharapova’s wild-card spot in the draw.

Sharapova is making a comeback following a 15-month doping ban.

Several players, including Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, have been critical of Sharapova and tournament organizers for giving her wild card entries. Due to her suspension, she is no longer ranked high enough to automatically qualify for main draws.

She is currently ranked 173rd in the world.

"I am so sorry to be missing Rogers Cup this year," Sharapova said in a statement. "I am so appreciative to the tournament for the wild card and my fans in Toronto for their support. I am disappointed that injury is keeping me from the tennis court once again, and I will work as hard as I can to return to the game I love as soon as possible."

The 30-year-old’s best result at the Rogers Cup came in 2009, when she advanced to the final.

Sharapova initially was given a two-year suspension after testing positive for the banned heart drug meldonium at last year’s Australian Open.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the ban on appeal, ruling she bore "less than significant fault" in the case and she could not "be considered to be an intentional doper."

Sharapova had been taking meldonium for many years, but overlooked announcements by WADA that it added the drug to its banned list on Jan. 1, 2016.

Canadian Carol Zhao will take Andreescu’s spot in the qualifying tournament.

Sharapova withdraws from Stanford with left arm injury

(8/2/17) Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova withdrew from the WTA Bank of the West Classic just before her scheduled second-round match Wednesday with a left arm injury, tournament officials announced.

"We're sad to announce that @mariasharapova has withdrawn after doctor's advice regarding her left arm," a post on the tournament's Twitter feed said.

Sharapova played her first US match in more than two years on Monday, defeating American Jennifer Brady 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 in an opening-round match at the hardcourt event in Stanford, California.

The former world number one from Russia hadn't played in the US since March of 2015, before serving a 15-month doping suspension for the use of meldonium.

"I feel like I just want to hug everyone and say thank you," Sharapova told fans in a post-match interview. "It's my first match in the States in a really long time, and it's the closest thing to home for me."

Seventh-seeded Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko advanced by walkover as a result of wildcard entrant Sharapova's early exit.

The latest injury brings into question whether or not Sharapova will be fit in time for the US Open, which starts August 28, as well as for another key tuneup event in Cincinnati in two weeks for which Sharapova has also accepted a wildcard.

Sharapova, 30, returned to competition in April, but her comeback was disrupted by a hip injury that forced her to withdraw from Wimbledon qualifying.

Sharapova's ranking has fallen to 171 in the world.

"I feel like I'm playing catch-up against everyone who has had a head start," Sharapova said after her Monday match. "All that matters is that I keep playing."

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