Maria Sharapova shrugged off scheduling snipes to advance to the fourth round of the US Open in prime time in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday night of Labor Day weekend.
It was just the language the Russian likes to use, winning on the biggest tennis stage in the world, her response to comments from Caroline Wozniacki complaining after she was eliminated that Sharapova was scheduled for Arthur Ashe Stadium while she played out on a field court.
If you put me out in a parking lot of Queens in New York City, I'm happy to play there Maria Sharapova
“That’s not what matters to me,” Sharapova said following her 7-5 6-2 victory over American Sofia Kenin.
“All that matters to me is I’m in the fourth round. I’m not sure where she is.”
Sharapova, given a wild card by the USTA into her first Grand Slam tournament since a 15-month doping ban, has played all her three matches on the main show court.
Wozniacki, the No 5 seed, said: “When you look on centre court, I understand completely the business side of things and everything, but someone who comes back from a drug sentence and performance-enhancing drugs and then all of a sudden gets to play every single match on centre court, I think that’s a questionable thing to do.”
Ashe is usually reserved for the top seeded players and while Sharapova is a five-time Grand Slam champion, she has a ranking that has tumbled to No 146 following her doping ban, and is therefore unseeded.
“With regards to scheduling, as you know, I don’t make the schedule,” Sharapova said.
“I’m a pretty big competitor.
“If you put me out in a parking lot of Queens in New York City, I’m happy to play there.”
Nothing is coming easy, though, for Sharapova on her Grand Slam return after her suspension, but the Russian’s mix of grit and power were enough to see off the challenge from the American teenager, Sofia Kenin.
Sharapova, who made her comeback in April after a 15-month ban following a positive test for meldonium, battled through the first two rounds and it seemed that she might also struggle against the 18-year-old, who was born in Russia and was looking to end her idol’s run at the Open.
“We had never faced each other and she came out having nothing to lose and it’s always dangerous so I’m happy I went through,” said Sharapova, who won her only US Open title back in 2006.
Sporting a leather-collared black dress encrusted with crystal, Sharapova made a rock star entrance on the packed Arthur Ashe Stadium to close the night session, but while the show is glamorous, she is still shaking off the rust from her game.
It was all sweat in a rough start for the former World No 1, as she made 9 unforced errors in the first three games alone.
“I did not see the ball too well at the beginning of the match, I wasn’t getting the shots that I wanted,” she admitted later.
The first set seemed to be playing out predictably enough, as Sharapova quickly established a 4-1 lead but Kenin, who created 8 break point chances in the set, converted twice and battled back.
Matching Sharapova’s screaming groundstrokes, Kenin took advantage of several Sharapova errors to get back on serve and ably held until she served to stay in the set at 5-6.
While she had a game point at 40-30, a tentative forehand miss evened the game and two convincing groundstroke winners from Sharapova gave the Russian the first set.
After hitting winners and unforced errors in almost equal measure in the opening set, Sharapova had dug deep enough to take the advantage and did not let up, racing through the second to victory.
Kenin, though, gave the New York fans something to cheer about as she took a shot at levelling the match by putting the set back on serve at 3-2.
With Sharapova serving at 4-2, 15-0, both players showed their all-court games, moving each other side to side, until Kenin approached the net and Sharapova managed to deftly lift a lob well over her head to land just inside the baseline.
“I feel like I had to win that point four times,” she said.
Sharapova didn’t look back, hitting a drop shot at 30-40 that Kenin missed wide, giving the Russian the set and the match.
By then Kenin’s tank was running on empty and Sharapova was in the next round to next face Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova, who took out Croatia’s Donna Vekic, 6-2 6-3, earlier in the evening.
After three-set struggles against Simona Halep and Timea Babos, this was slightly more comfortable for Sharapova.
She doesn’t care where she plays at Flushing Meadows, only that she is still playing.