US Open: Maria Sharapova battles past Sofia Kenin to reach the fourth round

Maria Sharapova starred in the last match on Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday as she took on Sofia Kenin, an 18-year-old player born in Russia but playing for the United States. Sharapova struggled to find her pace in the opening set, while Kenin didn’t show any sign of nerves as she pushed the 2006 champion to the limit. While Sharapova didn’t play her best match as she hit several unforced errors, the young American really proved to be a tough test for the former world number one.

The American, an up and coming player that stated her admiration for the Russian before the match, gave an amazing performance but she wasn’t able to outlast Sharapova who booked her spot in the fourth round of the US Open with a 7-5, 6-2 victory. In the next round, the Russian will face Anastasija Sevastova for the first time.

Sharapova battles to win the first set

Against the expectations, it wasn’t the young American who had a shaky start. Instead, it was the five-time Grand Slam champion who hit two double faults to give Kenin her first break point opportunity. Despite saving that one, Sharapova would have to overcome a second break point later in the service game to hold her serve for a 1-0 lead. Kenin also had an unsteady first service game, also needing to save two break points. However, unlike the former world number one, she netted a volley to hand the early break to Sharapova. At this point, the match seemed to follow the expected route, with Sharapova in the lead, but the Russian failed to consolidate the break and with that, Kenin broke back and was back in the set.

Sharapova used her defensive skills to get three break points which she would later convert with a dropshot to lead 3-1. Another erratic game from the Russian put her in trouble, but thanks to her experience, she was able to overcome it and hold for a 4-1 lead. The young American was ready to battle back and after a solid hold of serve, she went on to break Sharapova for the second time. Kenin then benefited from even more of Sharapova’s mistakes to level the score at 4-4.

Sofia Kenin in action during her third round match at the US Open. (Getty Images/Elsa)
Sofia Kenin in action during her third round match at the US Open. (Getty Images/Elsa)

Despite the errors, Sharapova battled to save her serve as she held for a momentarily lead. Kenin handled the pressure of serving to stay in the set brilliantly to draw level at 5-5. However, despite being far from playing her best tennis, Sharapova began to reduce the unforced errors that plagued her to at least avoid a tiebreak. The Russian made good use of her powerful groundstrokes to break Kenin once more to snatch the first set 7-5.

Sharapova plays inspired tennis

Still, not playing at her best, Sharapova held in the opening game of the second. The Russian wasted no time in growing her lead, breaking Kenin after the young American hit a double fault to hand over the break. The former world number one seemed to have found her pace, not even giving up a point as she closed a flawless game with an ace to extend her lead to 3-0.

However, the young American was unwilling to grant Sharapova another break, giving the New York crowd hints at a possible comeback as she held to win her first game of the set.

Maria Sharapova in action during her third round match at the US Open. (Getty Images/Steven Ryan)
Maria Sharapova in action during her third round match at the US Open. (Getty Images/Steven Ryan)

That game seemed to boost the American’s confidence who raced to get two break points of her own, which she didn’t have to fight for as Sharapova hit her seventh double fault of the match. However, Sharapova struck back immediately, stopping the American from battling back as she immediately broke her to open her lead to 4-2.

Both players then played their part in undoubtedly the point of the match in the following game with Sharapova thinking she had won the point following a well-executed dropshot, but Kenin was able to unexpectedly put it back on court, forcing Sharapova to show her best defensive skills that included a half-volley and a lob.

Unfazed by the retrieving skills of her opponent, the Russian eventually hit a lob winner to close that amazing point and later held to lead 5-2. That point seemed to have inspired Sharapova as she would go on to break to take the match, ending the hopes of the young American with a 7-5, 6-2 victory.