MELBOURNE, Australia — Maria Sharapova walked as much as the dais like she was strolling right into a bash. She wore a black crop high that fell to her waist and tights that had been shimmery and stylish.
“I don’t pull these out too usually,” she chirped to a roomful of reporters, referring to the highest. “I’m actually completely happy.”
Identified for her frosty reserve on the court docket, Sharapova was in a celebratory temper on Friday after dispatching the reigning champion and No. Three seed, Caroline Wozniacki, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, in a third-round grudge match.
Wozniacki, who’s associates with the opposite girls on the tour, and Sharapova, who retains her opponents at arm’s size, are one-time Australian Open winners and full-time adversaries. Their clashing personalities don’t account for why they approached each level within the 2-hour, 24-minute slugfest as in the event that they had been enjoying for the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup as an alternative of a berth within the Spherical of 16.
At this match in 2016, Sharapova, the 2008 champion from Russia, examined optimistic for meldonium, which had been newly added to the game’s banned substances record. Sharapova, who has steadfastly maintained that she was unaware of the change within the drug’s standing, acquired a two-year ban that later was decreased to 15 months.
When Sharapova returned to competitors in 2017, many gamers, together with Wozniacki of Denmark, had been crucial of her receiving wild playing cards and different types of what they thought of preferential remedy. That 12 months, the animus between the pair seeped into the US Open after Sharapova performed a second-round match at Arthur Ashe Stadium whereas the a lot higher-seeded Wozniacki was relegated on the identical day to an out of doors court docket, the place she misplaced.
In an interview afterward with a Danish newspaper, Wozniacki questioned placing “somebody who comes again from a medication sentence,” as she worded it, on the principle present court docket. “I believe it doesn’t set an excellent instance,” she stated.
When Wozniacki’s feedback had been later relayed to her, Sharapova stated it didn’t matter the place she performed, as a result of all she cared about was that she was nonetheless within the match. With out mentioning Wozniacki by title, she added, “I’m undecided the place she is.”
Friday’s match at Rod Laver Enviornment was the 11th aggressive assembly between Wozniacki and Sharapova, who holds a 7-Four edge. But it surely was the primary time they’d performed since Sharapova’s suspension.
“It was undoubtedly, you already know, a match that I seemed ahead to when the draw got here out,” stated Sharapova, who conspicuously averted taking a look at Wozniacki — and vice versa — in the course of the pre-match coin toss.
However after they returned to the web practically three hours later for the handshake, they made eye contact, two warriors to the battle born. Wozniacki’s energy is blasting balls from the baseline till her opponent blinks and, true to type, she engaged Sharapova in 23 rallies of no less than 9 photographs. Sharapova received 17 of these factors, together with a 23-shot rally within the eighth recreation of the primary set.
“These are the rallies that I believe a few years in the past that she used to win,” Sharapova stated. “I believed I did an incredible job of getting the next share of wins in these.”
Wozniacki had one forehand winner within the first two units (to Sharapova’s 17) and prevailed within the second set regardless of hitting only one winner, off her backhand.
“You recognize I did my greatest on the market,” Wozniacki stated. “I used to be combating until the top.”
At the same time as Wozniacki raced out to a 4-1 lead within the first set, she gave the impression to be lengthy on guile and grit however quick on gasoline. One among her second serves was clocked at 73 m.p.h. — and got here again to her at 82 m.p.h.
Wozniacki, 28, was recognized with rheumatoid arthritis earlier than final 12 months’s U.S. Open, and Friday’s climate, which included rain and a few thunder and lightning, offered good circumstances for a flare-up. In Wozniacki’s post-match information convention, a reporter, who recognized herself as a rheumatoid arthritis sufferer, stated she had been in fairly a little bit of discomfort due to the climate and requested Wozniacki about her ache ranges.
“I’m O.Okay.,” Wozniacki stated, including, “Undoubtedly don’t need to blame it on anything. You recognize, she was just a bit bit higher than me in the present day. And that was actually it.”
Wozniacki, who returned to the highest of the ladies’s world rankings together with her victory right here final 12 months, will tumble out of the highest 5 when the brand new rankings come out after the match’s conclusion. She was requested if Friday’s defeat stung any much less as a result of she would forevermore be often called a significant champion.
“I’m a competitor,” Wozniacki stated, including, “I hate shedding greater than I like successful. Clearly you’re sitting right here and also you’re somewhat unhappy. However, you already know, that’s what drives you.”
The 31-year-old Sharapova usually fields questions on her motivation. Her 2018 season ended prematurely, in September, after her surgically repaired proper shoulder began giving her matches. In keeping with Forbes, Sharapova, a five-time main winner who has accomplished the profession Grand Slam, has earned greater than $280 million in her profession. With an ostrich-sized nest egg, why does she stick with the fixed journey and each day grind?
The reply is easy, Sharapova stated: For days like this.
“I felt very a lot within the second,” she stated. “I felt current.”
Sharapova added, “To be within the grind of issues and to essentially have to determine a approach to be on high is what I missed.”