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Sharapova exits at the hands of ace Latvian Sevastova

 

By Paul Newman

At least there will be no more complaints about Maria Sharapova being given top billing. The 30-year-old Russian was handed the prime-time Sunday afternoon slot in Arthur Ashe Stadium but for once failed to live up to the occasion as Anastasija Sevastova won 5-7 6-4 6-2 to become the first player through to the women's quarter-finals.

No matter how much Caroline Wozniacki and others might have complained about what they saw as Sharapova's preferential treatment, there could be no doubt that the former World No.1, in the absence of Serena Williams, had been the star turn in the women's singles this year.

Once again the vast majority of the 23,000-strong crowd got behind Sharapova, who needed a wild card to play here following her return earlier this year from a 15-month suspension for a drugs offence.

The Russian appeared to be on course for a place in the last eight for the first time for five years when she won the first set, but Sevastova held firm and increasingly troubled her opponent. Sharapova made 50 unforced errors and was unable to match her foe's consistency.

Sevastova's smooth style contrasted with Sharapova's more mechanical ball-striking. The 27-year-old Latvian hit some beautiful sliced backhands, played some killing drop shots and moved across the court with elegant ease.

The World No.17 has won the first two titles of her career this year and enjoyed her best Grand Slam run at this tournament 12 months ago when she knocked out Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta en route to the quarter-finals.

Having retired in 2013 after a series of injury problems, Sevastova returned to competition two years later. She did not play any Grand Slams between the 2011 US Open and 2016 Australian Open but has enjoyed her best results since making her comeback. She had won her first three matches here, against Carina Witthoeft, Kateryna Kozlova and Donna Vekic, without dropping a set.

On this occasion, however, Sharapova quickly took charge of the opening set. Sevastova nevertheless, was in no mood to fold in the second set. She broke serve in the third game, stood her ground when Sharapova threatened to break back in the eighth and levelled the match with two successive service winners at 5-4.

Sharapova won only one point in losing the first three games of the decider, after which she had treatment for what appeared to be a blister.

Sevastova wobbled when she dropped serve on a double fault in the fourth game but the Latvian quickly regained her composure. Sharapova saved three match points when Sevastova served at 5-2, but the Latvian completed her victory with a service winner after two and a quarter hours.

Sevastova will now meet American Sloan Stephens after she defeated Germany's Julia Goerges 6-3 3-6 6-1.

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares continued the defence of their men's doubles title by defeating Marcus Daniell and Marcelo Demoliner in the second round.

The British-Brazilian partnership won their second Slam in New York 12 months ago and have made smooth progress.

Murray and Soares triumphed 7-6 (7-4) 6-3. In the third round, the fourth seeds will face Swede Robert Lindstedt and Jordan Thompson of Australia.

Independent News Service

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