Day 5. Round 3. Maria Sharapova

Stadium Announcer Andy Taylor. US Open 2017. Day 5 Maria Sharapova

Tennis Emcee. Andy Taylor. The Voice of the US Open

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Maria Sharapova def Sofia Kenin 75 62

She’s savoring every moment. After a year and a half away from the sport, Maria Sharapova is finally back in her element, under the lights, on tennis’ grandest stage. Back in 2005, at just 18-years-old, she became the sport’s top-player for the first time. A year later, she won the US Open.

Friday night, Maria saw that younger version of herself across the net. Like Sharapova, 18-year-old Sofia Kenin was born in Russia and trains in Florida. She’s an aggressive baseliner with a steely stare, and is deeply competitive. Down a break before the first changeover, Kenin never panicked. The opportunity was too big. She left intimidation in the locker room, and played lights-out to erase the break before the sit-down.

Kenin played a solid first-set, but inexperience on the big stage played a factor. With the “whole world watching,” Sofia softened while serving to force the tie-break. “Been-there, done-that” Sharapova took full advantage, broke to take the set, then steam-rolled Kenin the rest of the way.

It wasn’t a pretty performance from Sharapova Friday night. First serves were sporadic, landing only 54% of the time; not to mention, 33 unforced errors missed their mark. She needs to tame the inconsistency against Anastasija Sevastova if she expects to reach her 4th career US Open Quarterfinal.