Maria Sharapova Beats Simona Halep at US Open 2017 in Grand Slam Return

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2017

Aug 28, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Maria Sharapova of Russia waves to the crowd after her match against Simona Halep of Romania (not pictured) on day one of the U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sharapova looked right at home Monday night in her first Grand Slam tournament since the 2016 Australian Open.   

The five-time Grand Slam champion upset the second-seeded Simona Halep in the first round of the 2017 U.S. Open in three sets, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

According to ESPN Stats & InfoSharapova was the first women's wild card to beat the No. 2 seed in a major since Kim Clijsters defeated Serena Williams in 2009. Clijsters went on to win the tournament.

The U.S. Open is Sharapova's first major tournament back after serving a 15-month suspension for using a banned substance. While the 30-year-old Russian ranks 146th in the WTA, the United States Tennis Association granted her a wild card to play in the event.

Sharapova showed some rust, committing seven double-faults and 64 unforced errors against Halep, but Halep had problems of her own. She had just 15 winners, compared to 60 for Sharapova, and allowed her opponent 22 break-point opportunities.

In the second set alone, Halep staved off five break points before clinching the 10th game and forcing a third set. Sharapova's break of Halep's serve in the second game of the third set proved to be the difference, as the two held serve for the remainder of the set.

The U.S. Open shared a replay of match point. A Halep backhand sailed long, giving Sharapova the victory:

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Sharapova did a great job of making Halep work from the baseline. Forty-two of her winners came from ground strokes, and Halep was forced to cover 5.5 more feet per point than her opponent, which adds up over the course of a three-set match.

While her victory Monday night will raise expectations for what she can do in New York City, Sharapova's U.S. Open record hasn't been outstanding in recent years. After winning the tournament in 2006, she's advanced to the semifinals just once in her last six tries.

Sharapova will play Timea Babos in the second round in what will be the first meeting between the two.

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