Monday, August 27, 2012

U.S. Open tennis: It goes from queasy to easy for Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova, seeded No. 3, rolls to 6-2, 6-2 first-round win over Melinda Czink, then breezily describes illness that caused her to skip summer hard-court season.
Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova returns a shot during her first-round match against Melinda Czink. (Al Bello / Getty Images / August 27, 2012)

By Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times

August 28, 2012

NEW YORK — Maria Sharapova hadn't played a tennis match since she lost to Serena Williams at the Olympics, winning only one game with the gold medal on the line. And it might have seemed Sharapova had been mostly absent that day in London as well.

But Monday in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the U.S. Open, the No. 3-seeded Sharapova was regally dominant. She beat Hungarian veteran Melinda Czink, 6-2, 6-2.

And afterward Sharapova had some fun describing what turned out to be a nasty virus that caused her to pull out of all the North American hard-court warmups between the Olympics and the Open.

Because her stomach hurt so badly, Sharapova was sent for tests. "It was really weird," she said. "They told me I was fine, not pregnant. I'm like, 'Can I get my money back?'"

Sharapova was also eager to deny a rumor that she was going to marry her fiance, Sasha Vujacic, the former Lakers guard who is playing professionally in Turkey, in Istanbul in November.

"I'm definitely not getting married in Istanbul in November," she said. "I'm surprised everyone believed that."

Kim Clijsters, a three-time winner of this tournament who is retiring at its end, struggled early in her first match before beating 16-year-old Victoria Duval, 6-3, 6-1, in 51 minutes. Duval, who received a wild card into the tournament, is ranked No. 562 in the world and played her first Grand Slam-level match on the biggest court in the world.

Clijsters won her 22nd consecutive Open match; she missed the tournament in 2011 because of an injury and couldn't defend the titles she had won here in 2009 and 2010.

Olympic men's gold medalist Andy Murray and Wimbledon winner Roger Federer also had uncomfortable moments Monday.

The top-seeded Federer actually had his serve broken by American Donald Young in the second set and that caused Federer to frown. But he still won his way to the second round, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Young, 23, has won only three matches this year and had recently ended a 17-match losing streak, yet last year he made it to the fourth round of the Open. But Federer, taking aim at his sixth U.S. Open title, didn't give Young much cause for hope.

And maybe it was a two-hour rain delay that made the third-seeded Murray so cranky earlier in the day. The Scotsman was overheard saying some bad words in Ashe Stadium and was seen bouncing a racket or two off the court, especially in the first set when he struggled to hold his serve.

But in the end it was Murray with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 first-round win over Alex Bogomolov Jr.

Murray, 25, said he struggled with the humidity.

"I got a little bit of cramps," he said. "I need to stay better-hydrated."

Murray also became choked up after the match when he was asked on court about winning the Olympic gold medal. "It's the biggest win of my career," he said. "To play for your country in a home Olympics, to win a gold medal, it was perfect.


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