New York: Maria Sharapova´s Grand Slam return after a 15-month doping ban ended Sunday with a fourth-round defeat at the US Open but the former world number one considered it a major step in her comeback.
Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova rallied to eliminate the five-time Grand Slam champion 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 at Arthur Ashe Stadium, booking a quarter-final against American Sloane Stephens, who ousted Germany´s Julia Goerges 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
Sharapova, the 2006 US Open winner, was able to find the positives after making 51 unforced errors to only 14 by Sevastova, whose 21 winners were half the 30-year-old Russian´s total.
“Reflecting back on the week, I can be happy,” Sharapova said. “It has been a really great ride. Ultimately, I can take a lot from this week.”
Tuesday´s other quarter-final will match Czech 13th seed Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion, against US ninth seed Venus Williams, seeking her eighth Slam title and third US Open crown.
Kvitova eliminated Spanish third seed and two-time Slam winner Garbine Muguruza 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 while Williams beat 35th-ranked Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
In Sharapova´s first Slam since she tested positive for the banned blood booster meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, she ousted second-ranked Simona Halep in the first round and served notice to any contender her game remains formidable.
“She played unbelievable throughout the first and second set and I just kept fighting, running for every ball,” Sevastova said.
“I was confident. I was feeling it. But still you have to beat her. She was playing one of the best matches here.”
Sharapova returned from her suspension in April, was snubbed for a French Open wildcard and missed Wimbledon with a thigh injury but received a US Open wildcard despite only one hardcourt tuneup match due to a left forearm injury.
“It´s great to get that major out of the way,” Sharapova said. “I´m thankful for the opportunity. I did my best and I can be proud of that.”
Sharapova is expected to jump from 146th to around 100th in the world rankings.