By Dave Gertler
(August 12, 2014) MASON, OHIO – Maria Sharapova, seeded 5th at the Western & Southern Open, has survived a second-set resurgence from home-grown up and coming star Madison Keys, to win in three sets in just under two hours. Sharapova is now the first women’s player into the third round.
The first set was a one-sided affair, Sharapova racing to a 5-0 lead and taking the set 6-1. “After a bad first set I could have gone away,” said Keys post-match, drawing positives from the loss, “But I kind of figured it out and started playing better. It’s definitely an improvement.”
At 2-1 in the second set, there was an exchange of breaks before Keys broke again, holding her serve for a 5-2 lead before serving out the set 6-3, the Lindner Tennis Center crowd well and truly behind her.
At that point, Sharapova left the court for a few minutes, saying afterwards that a change of clothes was required because of the humidity. “I guess maybe that’s just what dry clothes does to you,” said the 27-year-old, “It gets you a bit calmer.” Sharapova broke Keys in the second game of the third set, the 19-year-old adding to her unforced-error tally at key moments.
Playing a high-stakes game to compete with her grand slam-winning opponent, the world No. 28 Keys served 7 double faults to 5 aces throughout the match. In the decider, said Keys of Sharapova, “She definitely stepped up her game. I also think, you know, in big points I got a little tentative. I mean, that showed, you know. I mean, after I got broken at the very beginning it was really hard to try to break back.”
Final score for Sharapova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
“I’m very happy with what I have been able to achieve this year,” said Sharapova, who has reached two finals here, winning one in 2011, “Because last year it was tough to miss the end of the season, you know, finding yourself in a position where you’re hurt again. I’m very happy with what I have been able to achieve this year.”
There’s a chance Sharapova might face fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who faces Italian Karin Knapp in the third round, while Keys heads back to Boca Raton to finish preparations for the US Open.
Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler, read his blog, and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .