New York: Maria Sharapova booked her US Open third-round berth on Wednesday with a gritty three-set victory over Alexandra Dulgheru as US men produced an historic low in their home Grand Slam.
Sharapova, who lifted her fifth Grand Slam title at the French Open this year, fought back from a set down to beat 95th-ranked Romanian Dulgheru 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Maria Sharapova. Pic/ AFP
The fifth-seeded Russian was reluctant to blame the windy conditions in the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium court for her difficulties, which included 46 unforced errors. And after two hours and 26 minutes on court -- in a match that began in hot sunshine and ended under the floodlights -- -- she had her 17th three-set win of the season, the most on the WTA tour.
"It was difficult," Sharapova said. "Obviously the conditions were tough. You start in the sun, you finish under the lights. "Overall I felt like in the end I was in much better shape than she was and I could have played another few sets. Mentally that helped me a lot." Sharapova was one of the day's headliners, along with Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka and five-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams on a day that saw two-time defending women's champion Serena Williams along with top men Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray all having a day off.
Wawrinka, the third seed from Switzerland, faced Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci in one of two men's second-round matches on the slate. If US fans were looking for home-grown heroes to cheer among the men, they were in for a disappointment.
The first-round exits of Steve Johnson and Ryan Harrison on Wednesday meant just three American men reached the second round, the fewest in US Open history. John Isner, the 13th-seeded US number one, Sam Querrey and wildcard Tim Smyczek all booked their second-round berths on Tuesday. American women were keeping the flag flying, and Venus Williams did her part. The two-time winner, who hadn't made it past the second round the past three years, reached the third round with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Timea Bacsinszky.
Fourth-seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska became the tournament's biggest upset victim, falling 6-3, 6-4 to China's Peng Shuai. Peng avenged a loss to Radwanska at the 2011 Australian Open where the Chinese player had held two match points. Poland's Radwanska, a former Wimbledon finalist who counts this year's Australian Open among two other Grand Slam semi-final spots, was left to ponder why she has never made it past the last 16 in nine US Open appearances.
"I really want to know the answer, then maybe I will find a way to play better here and just try another way to be in the second week," said Radwanska who had also lost to Peng in New York in 2010. World number two Simona Halep, seeded second behind world number one Serena Williams, needed less than an hour to book her third-round berth, with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Slovakian Jana Cepelova. Halep was broken early to trail 0-2, but won 12 of the next 13 games to secure the win. Sixth-seeded German Angelique Kerber also advanced on cue, downing Russian Alla Kudryavtseva 6-2, 6-4.
As the men's first round wrapped up, sixth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych brought Lleyton Hewitt's 62nd Grand Slam appearance to a quick end, downing the former world number one, and 2001 champion, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. The 33-year-old Hewitt, who has had five surgeries in five years to keep his career going, had early breaks in both the second and third sets, but couldn't deny Berdych a 100th career Grand Slam match win.
- Dimitrov breaks jinx -
Seventh-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov finally ended his US Open jinx. After coming up empty in three straight appearances, he defeated US wildcard Ryan Harrison 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2. South African Kevin Anderson rallied from a break down in the final set to defeat Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/1) in just over four hours.
But three men's matches were cut short by injury retirements. Wimbledon quarter-finalist Marin Cilic of Croatia advanced when a right ankle injury forced Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis to retire while trailing 6-3, 3-1. Spain's Feliciano Lopez advanced when Croatian Ivan Dodig with cramping and muscle cramps also left American Steve Johnson unable to continue against Japan's Tatsuma Ito.