- US Open
Sharapova scrapes through but Radwanska stunned
A year ago at this time, Maria Sharapova was sitting out the US Open, getting checked by doctors and having tests on the surgically repaired right shoulder that has troubled her off and on.
On Wednesday, Sharapova found herself down by a set and facing a break point early in the second at Flushing Meadows, bothered by the whipping wind, her own off-target strokes and an opponent who wasn't backing down.
As dusk fell and the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights came on, Sharapova came through the way she so often does in the crucible of a third set, beating 95th-ranked Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania 4-6 6-3 6-2 in the second round of the grand slam tournament she won in 2006 but has missed twice in the past six years.
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Sharapova won in part because of her big shots, yes, but also because she had more in the tank when it mattered.
"Overall I felt like in the end I was in much better shape than she was and I could have played another few sets," Sharapova said. "Mentally that helped me a lot."
It helped that Dulgheru had played one set over the past five weeks because of inflammation in her right wrist, which was operated on in May 2013 and flared up recently.
Dulgheru, though, pointed to Sharapova's grit as a key factor, too.
"The thing is that she's smacking the ball and she's a fighter. It can seem that she's down, that she's tired, but she's there," Dulgheru said. "She can get mentally really tough. She hangs in there with you until the end."
Sharapova improved to 17-6 in three-setters this season, including four wins in a row that went the distance en route to the title at the French Open in June, her fifth grand slam trophy.
"It's really good to get through," said Sharapova, who faces 2013 Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki next after the German beat Madison Brengle 6-4 6-1.
Sharapova added: "Put yourself in a really tough position, but then you're able to find a way to get back and finish really strong."
She managed to do that on a day that was not easy for some other seeded women in the second round, although No.19 Venus Williams, the 2000 and 2001 champion in New York, advanced with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over 78th-ranked Timea Bacsinszky in the night-time match.
Williams got to the third round at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2010.
"As the tournament goes on, it will get tougher," Williams said.
Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, though, became the first player in either draw seeded in the top 10 to lose after she was ousted in straight sets by doubles world No.1 Shuai Peng.
Peng's powerful groundstrokes proved too much for the fourth seed, who slipped to a 6-3 6-4 defeat in the tournament's biggest scalp thus far.
World No.39 Peng secured match point with a beautiful crosscourt backhand, after which her opponent left the court with a subdued wave to the Louis Armstrong crowd.
It is the second time Peng has knocked the Pole out in the second round of the year's final major, having achieved the same feat four years ago.
Peng hit 28 winners in the match, which lasted just over an hour-and-a-half in the New York heat, will now play Roberta Vinci in round three.
Vinci had to come back from a set down in a tough match with Irina-Camelia Begu and won through 2-6 6-4 6-1 in one hour and 48 minutes.
The Italian converted five of her six break points in the match, which ultimately proved the difference.
Shortly after Radwanska's defeat came a second shock as Johanna Larsson sent home favourite Sloane Stephens packing with a 5-7 6-4 6-2 victory.
Stephens was the No.21 seed at Flushing Meadows but was beaten in little over two hours on the Arthur Ashe showcourt. Sixth seed Angelique Kerber beat Russia's Alla Kudryavtseva 6-2 6-4 to reach the third round, while second seed Simona Halep is safely through after a 6-2 6-1 triumph over Jana Cepelova.
Jelena Jankovic eased through with a 7-5 6-4 win against Tsvetana Pironkova while Belinda Bencic upset No.31 seed Kurumi Nara 6-4 4-6 6-1 on Court 11.
Caroline Wozniacki wasted no time in asserting her authority on court as she cruised past Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3 6-4.
Elsewhere, the 22-seed Alize Cornet endured no problems in her second round clash with Daniela Hantuchova - apart from slipping on a courtside mat. Frenchwoman Cornet advanced with a comfortable 6-3 6-3 win.