Maria Sharapova’s return to WTA tournament play after more than a month away was short-lived following an upset loss to 17th-ranked American Sloane Stephens 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the second round of the Western & Southern Open on Tuesday.
In a match that lasted 2 hours, 22 minutes, Stephens overcame losing the first set and the first two games of the second and double faults on two match points to pick up her first victory over Sharapova in four meetings.
”It definitely started out rough,” Stephens said. ”A set and 0-2, she was killing it. I’m glad I was able to turn it around and start playing good tennis.”
Sharapova, the 2011 W&S champion and a 2010 finalist, showed no traces of the hip injury that had kept her sidelined since a second-round loss at Wimbledon.
”I thought I started the match off pretty well, but when you put yourself in a really good position, you can’t let it go,” Sharapova said. ”That’s what I did tonight. I didn’t continue what I was doing well for the first set and a half, and that hurt me.
”You know, I stopped being patient. I started making a lot more errors, especially off the first ball — just errors that I shouldn’t make. Obviously, I haven’t played in a long time, but I can’t make that excuse for myself because I’ve got to be ready from the first match. So it’s obviously disappointing, but that’s the way it goes in this game.”
Jimmy Connors, who won the tournament 41 years ago, watched from the stands in his first match as Sharapova’s coach. She hired Connors, the 1972 champion and a 1986 finalist, in mid-July.