US Open: Sharapova delivers the beat down to Ostapenko to make the fourth round
Maria Sharapova stayed the course and devasted the game of her opponent at the US Open Saturday night. An attack of Jelena Ostapenko‘s second serve resulted in a 6-3, 6-2 win for the former champion on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center. It was the 23rd straight win at night for the former world number one who was back into the second week of the tournament and the third time in six years.
The two met in heated battle in Rome where the former 2015 champion went three sets overcoming a toughly contested opener before holding off Ostapenko in the next two. While she didn’t get the title back into her hands, the Russian was eyeing her return to the fourth round making it four consecutive appearances. The 21-year-old never tasted the round of 16 before and with the loss to Sharapova back in May, she would hunt down the chance to break even with the tennis superstar.
She had trouble with her opening service game double-faulting twice and had two of her shots examined on challenges. Both were down one apiece before Ostapenko herself had to fight back to force deuce. The double faults continue to rattle her as she had four and failed to hold the AD point four times. A fifth one got it locked up after nine breaks and 13 minutes that completed the very first game. Sharapova avoided having her service game extended in any way and got the score even in three minutes. She broke the Latvian in the next game to take the lead in what was an easy push for the 31-year-old.
She gained a 3-1 lead with another hold locked in and Ostapenko racking up her 16th error after the four games. She tried getting it together on serve in the fifth, but the shots continued to fly out of the court causing the troubles to haunt her. A double fault handed Sharapova the double break and a commanding hold while she continued to cruise through the set. Her first serve to love in the set had Ostapenko eager to finish the first and regroup her total outlook on playing Sharapova stronger. She showed some of it in the seventh saving three break points from the 22nd seed before getting the win on a second long ball return.
She was gaining confidence by the handful as Sharapova erred enough in the eighth to hand over another victory. The Latvian played a defensive style of tennis with aggressive patterns that achieved the margin to two. Just when she had things together, they fell apart with three consecutive unforced errors that gave Sharapova an out. She hit a pop fly return that flew high over Ostapenko to take the win in 43 minutes.
While the Russian had an 85 per cent first serve the 21-year-old recorded 27 errors in total despite having a strong return percentage against Sharapova’s first serve. The mistakes that came back to haunt the 2017 French Open champion would have to be figured out quick going into the second set and the Russian pressing the reset button.
She blew her chance for a clean start to the set by double-faulting to give Ostapenko a much-needed start. She was unable to consolidate her own hold as Sharapova came out attacking the Latvian to even up quickly. It didn’t turn into a set that she would dictate with it instead of going the path of break backs before one came to her in the fifth to gain the lead. Ostapenko was in trouble on serve in the sixth giving the ball a little too much speed that led to two break points for Sharapova. She double-faulted for the sixth time to secure the win for the 31-year-old who was two games from entering the second week. She had a hiccup on serve blowing two game points but earned the win with an ace that put Ostapenko in a tight spot to stay alive.
She had Sharapova producing an error but they stopped coming as the Russian was intent on bringing the match to a close. With one match point available, Sharapova took it on a short rally that Ostapenko sent back into the net ending 1 hour and 22 minutes. Ostapenko had 40 total unforced errors with the offense performing under 45 per cent on both fronts of her game.
“I just wanted to improve from my second round,” Sharapova said to ESPN’s Renae Stubbs. “I didn’t felt like I played my best tennis. I got through that match really well and felt that I started with that energy today.” “She (Ostapenko) is a phenomenal player and a grand slam champion and I can’t expect to come out here and win an easy match and that’s what got me going with that competitiveness.”
The competition would get fierce with her facing Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro on Monday. “I’ll be facing a lot of spin and a one-handed backhand which is one of the best on the tour,” Sharapova said. “She’s a challenge and I’ve lost to her before. She’s gonna come in as the underdog and am gonna do everything I can. It’s gonna be a physical match and I’m gonna be ready for it.”