Although there were some struggles early, Maria Sharapova won 10 games in a row to defeat Maria Kirilenko in her opening match at the 2014 U.S. Open by a score of 6-4, 6-0.
Sharapova was excellent in her returns, winning 55 percent of receiving points in the contest. Meanwhile, Kirilenko ended up with four double faults and 23 unforced errors compared to just 12 winners to hurt herself throughout the match.
After missing the U.S. Open last year, Sharapova is off to a good start in her attempt to win her second major of 2014.
The two Russian competitors battled hard in the first set, with Kirilenko performing as well as she has in some time, as noted by Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times:
Great (maybe not for Sharapova right now) to see Kirilenko back healthy, playing well. Hit top 10 just as she was beset by injury. #usopen— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 26, 2014
Mario Harter of Sky Sports notes Sharapova was struggling early in the set:
As usually Sharapova struggles in the 1st set a bit but will make it to the next round easily. Kirilenko doing well anyway. #usopen— Mario Harter (@marioharter) August 26, 2014
There were some long points throughout the set, and Kirilenko seemed to be able to come through with big points at every one of them. U.S. Open Tennis captured one of the more impressive wins of the opening set as she built up a 4-2 lead:
However, Sharapova was able to bounce back when it counted thanks to her great defensive effort, as noted by Howard Bryant of ESPN.com:
Down 4-2, Sharapova wins the next four games and the set, 6-4...hard for Kirilenko to stick to the game plan with no free serve points— Howard Bryant (@hbryant42) August 26, 2014
The superstar was then able to keep this momentum into the second set, as Kirilenko's inconsistency became more noticeable, as noted by Matt Cronin of Tennis Reporters:
Kirilenko is up and down. Her backhand is shaky and her first serve is spotty. And Sharapova feeling comfortable— Matt Cronin (@TennisReporters) August 26, 2014
Sharapova ended up earning a bagel in the second set after winning 10 games in a row. Steve Tignor of ESPN.com believes this is as good as the talented player has been in a while:
Ma-Sha over Ma-Kiri 64 60; wins last 10 games. Sharper Sharapova than we've seen this month. #USOpen2014— Steve Tignor (@SteveTignor) August 26, 2014
Kirilenko was competing in her first match since Wimbledon, which saw her pull a first-round upset over Sloane Stephens before going down in the second round. Overall, this has been a disappointing season for the 27-year-old veteran.
Despite the extended absence, Sharapova was concerned about facing her compatriot, via USOpen.org:
I think it's also an opportunity for someone like that to come in and have no expectations because they haven't really played a match and to go out and swing away and not put, you know, a lot on yourself, not expect much from yourself. Sometimes that's a very dangerous opponent.
Fortunately, this did not seem to affect her too much, as she was able to come through with a strong opening win.
She will now face Alexandra Dulgheru in the second round after the Romanian competitor won her first match in straight sets. However, things get much tougher in arguably the most difficult section of the draw.
With Sabine Lisicki, Caroline Wozniacki, Venus Williams and Simona Halep all competing for one spot in the semifinals, things are going to get very interesting in the coming days.
As long as she competes to her ability, though, Sharapova has a chance to make a deep run in New York City.
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