LOS ANGELES, Aug 1, (Agencies): Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova made a battling return to US hardcourts on Monday with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 victory over American Jennifer Brady in Stanford, California. “I feel like I just want to hug everyone and say thank you,” Sharapova told fans in a post-match interview. “It’s my first match in the States in a really long time, and it’s the closest thing to home for me.” The former world number one from Russia hadn’t played in the US since March of 2015, before serving a 15-month doping suspension for the use of meldonium.
She returned to competition in April, but her comeback has been disrupted by a hip injury that forced her to withdraw from Wimbledon qualifying. Sharapova, whose ranking has fallen to 171 in the world, received a wild card into the premier level tournament in Stanford, where she was tested Monday by the 80th-ranked Brady. Sharapova got off to a brisk start. Although she needed to save three break points in the sixth game to take a 5-1 lead in the opening set, she broke in the next game to seize the set before Brady won the second.
“I had a bit of a letdown but that’s the way it is,” Sharapova said. “You finish a set and think you’ve got it, but she came out firing, capable of hitting winners and big serves.” Early in the third Sharapova fought off two break points to consolidate her lead, and wrapped up the match after two hours and two minutes. “I feel like I face a lot of things: not competing for a long time, an opponent who’s able to play some great tennis … I feel like I’m playing catch-up against everyone who’s had a head start,” Sharapova said. “All that matters is that I keep playing.” Sharapova, who has also accepted a wildcard into the WTA tournament in Cincinnati — another key warmup for the US Open — booked a second-round meeting with seventh-seeded Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena.
Former champion Philipp Kohlschreiber advanced to the second round of the Generali Open by beating Facundo Bagnis of Argentina 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.
Coming off a semifinal run in Hamburg last week, the German led Bagnis 2-0 in the second set before losing five straight games. He broke Bagnis once in the final set to close out the win.
Kohlschreiber, who won the event in 2015, next plays seventh-seeded Jiri Vesely, who defeated Yannick Hanfmann of Germany 6-4, 6-4.
Also, Colombian qualifier Santiago Giraldo upset two-time former champion Robin Haase of the Netherlands 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-4, and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina saved four match points in the second set before beating Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil 2-6, 7-6 (11), 7-6 (4).
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev overcame an ankle injury then fought off a match point to advance to the second round of the Citi Open in Washington D.C. on Monday.
Medvedev twisted his ankle late in the third set and fought off a match point against Reilly Opelka before he prevailed 6-7(8) 6-3 7-6(6) to move into a second round clash with American Steve Johnson.
The men’s draw suffered a minor blow when John Isner, who won the Atlanta title last week and has been beaten three times in the final in Washington in 2007, 2013 and 2015, had to withdraw from the tournament with a knee injury.
“Disappointed to have withdrawn from the @CitiOpen this year,” Isner posted on Twitter. “Unfortunately, I’m just not quite fit enough for it this year. I’ll be back!”
In other first-round men’s action, American Donald Young beat compatriot Tim Smyczek 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, to set up a second round clash with world number nine Kei Nishikori.
World number seven Dominic Thiem, the top seed, is due to play on Tuesday, while former Argentina’s US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro is also on court.
Women’s third seed Lauren Davis was upset by Aryna Sabalenka 7-5, 6-3 on Monday, while former number one Jelena Jankovic retired while trailing Oceane Dodin 2-0 in the third set.
German fourth seed Julia Goerges defeated Francoise Abanda 6-4, 6-4.
New US number one John Isner, who took back-to-back titles the past two weeks in Newport and Atlanta, withdrew from the ATP Citi Open on Monday with a right knee injury.
The 32-year-old standout, a three-time runner-up at the Washington hardcourt event, won the 11th and 12th titles of his career over the past two weeks, downing Australian Matthew Ebden on Newport grass and compatriot Ryan Harrison in two Atlanta tie-breakers in the finals.
But the toll prompted Isner to withdraw from Washington, where he was seeded ninth and owned a first-round bye, as Masters Series events in Montreal and Cincinnati loom before the US Open starts Aug 28.
The twin triumphs were enough to boost Isner over Jack Sock in the rankings to top the American list, Isner moving to 18th this week with Sock staying at 19th.
Amazon.com Inc has made it first move into major sports rights outside the United States by outbidding Sky for the exclusive UK rights to tennis’s ATP World Tour, the Guardian said on Tuesday.
Amazon Prime Video agreed to pay as much as 10 million pounds ($13.2 million) a year for the rights, which include the ATP Tour finals competition between the top eight singles and doubles players, the newspaper said.
Sky was paying about 8 million pounds a year under a deal that lasts until 2018, the Guardian said.
Amazon won the streaming rights in the United States for NFL’s Thursday Night Football in April, kicking off a push by the online retailer to attract fans to its shopping and video service.
Sky, Britain’s biggest pay-TV group, said last week it had walked away from bidding on some sports rights as it invest elsewhere in the business, including continuing to broaden its drama and entertainment content.
Sky has recently reorganised its sports broadcasting to create channels dedicated to specific sports such as soccer, cricket, Formula One and golf. Amazon and Sky declined to comment.