Maria Sharapova powers past second seed Simona Halep on Grand Slam return
Maria Sharapova v Simona Halep 6-4 4-6 6-3

Maria Sharapova powers past second seed Simona Halep on Grand Slam return

Maria Sharapova marked her return to Grand Slam action with a turbulent 6-4 4-6 6-3 victory over second seed Simona Halep in the headline tie from the US Open first round.

The Russian slumped to the court in disbelief after edging a gruelling contest, which fell just 14 minutes shy of the three-hour mark.

She ripped through her opponent’s game – particularly the second serve – as she asserted herself as one of the early favourites at Flushing Meadows.

However, her ferocious display was almost undone by an astonishing 64 unforced errors, while she also blew 17 of 22 break point opportunities.

Sharapova’s involvement in New York is a source of controversy, with the 30-year-old granted a wildcard after a 15-month drug ban for meldonium saw her ranking plummet.

She returned to the women’s tour in April, but the French Open ignored her wildcard hopes, while Wimbledon were saved an awkward debate when the Russian dropped out of consideration through injury.

In truth, her victory could have been far more convincing had she not surrendered a 4-1 advantage in the second set, while she also had to save a break point in the final game.

Her reward is a second-round clash with Hungary’s Timea Babos.

An incredible six-way battle for the women’s number one spot is underway at the US Open – down from eight after Johanna Konta and Halep’s shock exits.

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