Maria Sharapova won a three-set marathon against Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska as she shrugged off injury concerns and laid down her challenge at the WTA Finals in Singapore on Sunday.
The Russian had not completed a match since the Wimbledon semi-finals after leg and forearm problems but she overcame some rusty play to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 47 minutes. It could prove a useful work-out for the world number three as she bids to recover the title she won aged 17 on debut in 2004. Top-ranked Serena Williams has opted not to defend her title, choosing to shut down her 2015 season to recover from injury and fatigue issues.
Last year’s runner-up Simona Halep of Romania earlier destroyed US Open champion Flavia Pennetta of Italy 6-0, 6-3 to also get off the mark in the Red Group round robin, with matches to come against Sharapova and Radwanska.
“Matches like this, I think they take a few years out of your life. God knows what is happening with my hair. I think I lost half of it. It’s like I don’t even want to open this bun up because it’s just a disaster,” Sharapova said.
“But you know what? I’m happy I got through. Yeah, I’m going to feel it tomorrow and I’m going to be a little bit tired, but, hey, that’s the game. I’m proud that I was able to get through.”
Shot-making Radwanska edged Sharapova in the first set as she gained the only break in the ninth game and calmly served it out -- before the Russian caught a verbal volley from her coach. The strict instructions to be more aggressive did the trick as Sharapova broke twice in the second set and buried the first set point with a thumping forehand to level the match.
The Russian was cruising as she grabbed a double break in the third set, but she was then broken as she served for the match and double-faulted on match point in her next service game. However, an ace immediately brought up another match point and a delighted Sharapova tasted victory for the first time in nearly four months as Radwanska put a forehand into the net.
New York revenge
Earlier Romanian top seed Halep beat Pennetta convincingly to gain some measure of revenge for her defeat to the Italian in the US Open semi-finals. World number two Halep also showed no signs of the left Achilles tendon injury that forced her to retire at this month’s China Open as she dominated the opening match in Singapore.
Halep, 24, shocked Williams en route to last year’s final and is seeded top after the world number one opted out of the eight-player showdown in order to rest. “I have great memories from last year so I had confidence,” Halep said after the match. “I played solid today.”
Soon-to-retire US Open champion Pennetta, 33, had a 4-1 head-to-head advantage going into the match, but Halep boasted a tour-leading 40 match wins on hardcourts this season. “She was playing really well today,” Pennetta said, complimenting Halep’s consistent serve. “Maybe I had not too much energy.”
Halep admitted on Sunday that she was nervous after their US Open meeting but had learned from her 6-1, 6-3 humbling at Flushing Meadows. “I have learned about how to manage the situation when you play semi-finals, and I hope to have many more and to pass that bad feeling,” she said.