Sharapova makes a noisy return
The Shrieker is back after a 15-month drug suspension and has picked up where she left off by winning her first match on the first day of her official comeback, midway through the Stuttgart Open thanks to a controversial wild card.
I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long timeMaria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova, now the tainted Tsarina of Russian tennis, defeated Roberta Vinci, the world No36, 7-5 6-3 as she attempts to regain some respect on the tour for not all of her peers were keen to welcome her back. Even the sell-out crowd of 4,000 only provided her with a polite reception.
It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old to get back into her stride for as her opponent pointed out, she wasn’t out injured so could keep in shape during her ban.
As she recorded her first win to start climbing back up the rankings in an effort to make the main draw at Roland Garros and Wimbledon without the assistance of a wildcard, Sharapova showed some match rustiness in the early stages having to recover from 2-0 down but once she found her feet, her piercing shrieking as well as her forehand, dominated the 105-minute match.
Having secured her second-round place where she meets fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova she went through her usual staged performance of gratitude towards the crowd including blowing kisses, then saying in her on-court interview: "I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. Yes, you’re rusty and you’re trying to get the rhythm again but itÈs my first match in a while, but this is what I’ve done for so long, and when you’re in the moment, you try to block everything out, and you compete. And I’m a competitor by nature, even when things are not working. That’s what I do."
Her style of play hasn’t changed, nor has her haughty attitude towards the press or her fellow competitors. To say that the locker room was frosty, would no doubt be understating the situation, especially as Eugenie Bouchard, as reported by Reuters, declared the five-time grand slam champion should not have been allowed to come back at all! She’s a cheater and I don’t think a cheater should be allowed to play that sport again, the Canadian said with passion.
It also followed some disparaging remarks made by Sharapova’s agent who claimed that journeymen players like Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki weren’t keen to have his client back because it reduced their chances of ever winning a grand slam title.
There has been no contrition from Sharapova either who, when asked what she had replaced the now banned Meldonium which she had insisted she had been taking for health reasons, she glibly replied: That information is between myself, the WTA and the orthopaedic doctor I am working with. Considering she had never revealed she had been taking Meldonium to the authorities over the previous ten years when it was legal, this disclosure in itself must be considered a step in the right direction!
Earlier in the day, Jo Konta overcame Japan’s Naomi Osaka 7-6 3-6 6-1, to successfully put behind her the traumatic experiences the British Fed Cup team suffered in Constanta, Romania. The world No7 now meets Latvian Anastasia Sevastova for a place in the quarter-finals.
In the Barcelona ATP event, Andy Murray received a walk-over into the third round when his opponent, Bernard Tomic who withdrew with a bad back. The world No1 next aces Feliciano Lopez for a place in last eight.