Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sharapova triumphs in U.S. return at Stanford

Maria Sharapova won in her first tournament match in North America in more
than two years on Monday night at Stanford. Photo by Mal Taam
   Former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova defeated Jennifer Brady 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 Monday night in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   It was Sharapova's first tournament match in North America in more than two years and her first anywhere since the Italian Open in May.
   Sharapova, 30, returned from a 15-month doping suspension in April. In the third tournament of her comeback, she retired from her second-round match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in Rome with a thigh injury.
   "I feel like I face a lot of things: not competing for a long time, an opponent who's able to play some great tennis -- what a year she's had already!" Sharapova, a wild card ranked No. 171, told reporters. "I feel like I'm playing catch-up against everyone who's had a head start.
   "All that matters is that I keep playing. As long as I'm the one winning the last point, I get to play another match, and another. The more I play, the better I'll do. That's the goal."
   Brady, 22, of Orlando, Fla., reached the fourth round of the Australian Open as a qualifier in January and the quarterfinals of last week's $60,000 Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area.
   Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam singles champion, will play seventh-seeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine on Wednesday or Thursday. Tsurenko, who reached the third round at Wimbledon and the French Open and won Acapulco this year, dismissed Lara Arruabarrena of Spain 6-3, 6-3.
   After Sharapova's victory, former Stanford star Nicole Gibbs edged 17-year-old wild card Claire Liu 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5) in a battle of Southern Californians. Liu, the Wimbledon girls champion, is ranked No. 1 in the juniors.
   Gibbs, 24, will face the winner of today's scheduled match between sixth-seeded and 24th-ranked CoCo Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., in the San Diego area and Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia.
   Tomljanovic withdrew from Sunday's final in the Gold River Challenger with soreness in her surgically repaired right shoulder.
   Vandeweghe reached the final at Stanford five years ago as a lucky loser, falling to Serena Williams.
   In tonight's featured match at 7, local favorite CiCi Bellis will take on Alize Cornet of France. Bellis, 18, is the youngest player in the top 50 at No. 44. Cornet, 27, is one spot lower.
   Bellis was born in San Francisco and grew up in Atherton, a five-minute drive from Stanford. She now lives in Orlando, Fla.
   Here are the Bank of the West singles and doubles draws and today's schedule.

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