Early exit nowhere close to growing pains

Russia's Maria Sharapova serving against Carla Suarez Navarro in the fourth round on Monday. She lost 6-4, 6-3 to the Spaniard.
Russia's Maria Sharapova serving against Carla Suarez Navarro in the fourth round on Monday. She lost 6-4, 6-3 to the Spaniard.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Losing in straight sets in the fourth round of a Grand Slam is tough?

Tell that to Maria Sharapova who, after a 6-4, 6-3 loss to Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro on Monday, said that it was nothing compared to what the Russian endured when she arrived in the United States in 1994 with only her father and US$700 (S$960) in their pockets.

"What's challenging is when you have a few hundred dollars and no sense of the future, you don't know where you're going to end up. You just have a dream," she said in her post-match interview, during which she laughed off suggestions that her best days are behind her.

"That's a lot tougher than being a 31-year-old and having the opportunity to do what I want in my life."

Those traumatic days have long since given way to one of sport's most powerful rags-to-riches stories that has seen Sharapova earn a personal fortune estimated to be in the region of US$200 million.

Despite the 22nd seed's sense of perspective on the defeat, question marks remain over whether she will ever return to her peak. The last of her five Grand Slam titles came at the French Open in 2014.

In her first Major last year after a 15-month doping ban, she reached the fourth round at the US Open, but her form has been erratic since:

•Australian Open third round

• French Open quarter-finals

• First-round exit at Wimbledon

  • SELECTED DAY 8 RESULTS

  • MEN'S 4TH RD

    Marin Cilic (Cro) bt David Goffin (Bel) 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 6-4, Kei Nishikori (Jpn) bt Philipp Kohlschreiber (Ger) 6-3 6-2 7-5, Novak Djokovic (Srb) bt Joao Sousa (Por) 6-3 6-4 6-3.

    WOMEN'S 4TH RD

    Madison Keys (USA) bt Dominika Cibulkova (Svk) 6-1 6-3, Naomi Osaka (Jpn) bt Aryna Sabalenka (Blr) 6-3 2-6 6-4, Lesia Tsurenko (Ukr) bt Marketa Vondrousova (Cze) 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 6-2.

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Monday's defeat ended her perfect record of 23 wins, 22 of them in Arthur Ashe Stadium, in night sessions at Flushing Meadows.

Spare a thought for the lesser lights of tennis though.

"It's the first time I've played this year at night," Suarez Navarro, the 30th seed who just turned 30, said courtside after being wished happy birthday by the crowd. "I'm very happy I played a good match,"

Sharapova's US Open performances have also exposed serious flaws in her game. In her four matches, she served 32 double faults and dropped serve 15 times.

She remains unperturbed and will keep plugging away with the hope that things will turn around.

"If I didn't have the belief to keep doing this, and to keep having the motivation and the grind of doing this every day in order to get myself in these positions, I wouldn't be here," she added.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2018, with the headline 'Early exit nowhere close to growing pains'. Print Edition | Subscribe