Maria Sharapova sets up a rematch with Ashleigh Barty
Maria Sharapova overpowered Alison Riske 6-3, 7-6(7/4) at the Cincinnati Masters tennis championships yesterday morning (Singapore time) to set up a tantalising second-round battle with world No. 2 Ashleigh Barty, who defeated the Russian at this year's Australian Open.
Sharapova struggled at times with her accuracy, but unleashed some massive serves and played stout defence at key moments on her return to the tournament after a five-year absence.
Fellow wild-card Riske looked poised to send the match to a third set when she was serving on 5-3 and 15-0 in the second set, but Sharapova upped her game to force a tie-breaker.
Former world No. 1 and five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova prevailed on her fourth match-point to set up the meeting with top seed Barty.
Barty defeated Sharapova in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January and both will be looking to sharpen their games ahead of the US Open later this month.
Another former world No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki, fell to rising Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska 6-4, 6-4.
The unseeded Dane had her opportunities but converted just four of her 15 break-point chances against Yastremska, who was making her Cincinnati debut.
In the men's draw, three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray said he "did OK" in his first singles match in seven months - a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Richard Gasquet.
"I don't really know what I was expecting, to be honest," said Murray, sidelined since January by a career-threatening hip injury. "I did OK."
The 32-year-old Scot was optimistic he can improve further, saying: "I think with a few more weeks of practice and hopefully some more matches, then I could do better."
Nevertheless, Murray said after the match that he did not intend to play singles at the US Open. - REUTERS, AFP