So much about Maria Sharapova was the same as it ever was during her first Grand Slam match since a 15-month doping suspension: the shot-punctuating shrieks, the aggressive baseline style, the terrific returning, the sometimes-shaky serving.Another familiar sight: The five-time major champion gutted out a victory.Sharapova recovered after faltering midway through the match and emerged to beat No. 2-seeded Simona Halep 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 at the U.S. Open on Monday night to reach the second round.”This girl has a lot of grit and she’s not going anywhere,” Sharapova told the crowd in an on-court interview.After leading by a set and 4-1 in the second, Sharapova showed some fatigue and rust, dropping five games in a row. But in the third, Sharapova regained control by going ahead 3-0, using her power to keep two-time French Open runner-up Halep under pressure.An extremely emotional @MariaSharapova ends a three-set marathon vs second seed Halep 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. #USOpen @MBUSA pic.twitter.com/0SLN8Zrrwx- US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 29, 2017Sharapova had not played at a Grand Slam tournament since January 2016, when she tested positive for the newly banned heart drug meldonium during the Australian Open. It was as if every one of Sharapova’s winners – and she compiled 60, 45 more than Halep – was her way of declaring, “I’m back!”When a Halep shot sailed long to end the match after more than 2 and a half hours, Sharapova dropped to her knees on court, then covered her face as her eyes welled with tears.advertisement”I just thought that was another day, another opportunity, another match,” Sharapova said. “But this was so much more. I tried not to think about it.””This girl has a lot of grit and she’s not going anywhere,” @MariaSharapova after her win over (2) Halep tonight.#USOpen pic.twitter.com/UAyA9hyBoi- US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 29, 2017The 30-year-old Russian was allowed back on the tour this April, but she was denied a wild-card invitation for the French Open the next month. The U.S. Tennis Association did grant a wild card to Sharapova, who was once ranked No. 1 but is currently 146th.That is 144 spots below Halep, who is among eight women that entered the U.S. Open with a chance to top the WTA rankings by tournament’s end. The draw at Flushing Meadows randomly paired the two players, providing a buzz-generating matchup that managed to live up to the hype on Day 1 at the year’s last Grand Slam tournament.It was a tremendously entertaining and high-quality contest, more befitting a final than a first-rounder.These two women have, indeed, faced off with a Grand Slam title at stake: Sharapova beat Halep in the 2014 French Open final, part of what is now her 7-0 head-to-head record in the matchup.On Monday, they traded stinging shots, often with Sharapova – dressed in all black, from her visor to her dress that sparkled under the lights, to her socks and shoes – aiming to end exchanges and Halep hustling into place to extend them.Points would last 10 or 12 strokes, or more, repeatedly leaving a sellout crowd of 23,771 in Arthur Ashe Stadium clapping and yelling and high-fiving, no matter which player won them. The chair umpire repeatedly admonished spectators to hush.Halep blinked at the end of the hour-long first set, double-faulting to face a break point, then watching Sharapova punish a 71 mph second serve with a forehand return winner. That was Sharapova’s sixth return winner; she would finish with 14, more than enough to counter her seven double-faults.It was quickly 4-1 for Sharapova in the second set and she held a break point there to allow her to go up 5-1 and serve for the victory. But she couldn’t convert it. Then, only then, did Sharapova struggle for a bit. Her footwork was a bit off. Her forehand lost its way. She would end up losing that game and the next four, too, as Halep managed to force a third set.2017 is the 20th anniversary of both Arthur Ashe Stadium & @ShaniaTwain’s hit album Come On Over. https://t.co/dr83PLodQK #USOpen pic.twitter.com/FlXh0FKHlD- US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 28, 2017But with the outcome in the balance, Sharapova once again looked as if she had never been away. She raced ahead 3-0 in the third, then 5-2. And this time, she did not let Halep back in, improving to 11-0 in first-round matches in New York.This was by far the day’s most significant match, no matter happened later in the men’s encounter in Ashe between No. 4 Alexander Zverev and qualifier Darian King of Barbados.advertisementEarlier Monday, seven-time major champion Venus Williams picked up a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory against Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia, a 19-year-old qualifier who is ranked 135th, joining past Wimbledon winners Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova in the second round.But No. 7 seed Johanna Konta, a Wimbledon semifinalist just last month, was bounced by 78th-ranked Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.”I don’t take anything for granted,” Konta said. “I think it would be quite obnoxious of me to come in here expecting I have a right to be in second week.”Biggest upset so [email protected] stuns (7) Konta 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on the Grandstand.#USOpenhttps://t.co/Xw2YnHH6aw pic.twitter.com/EszoC1SLMj- US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 28, 2017And in another surprise, 13th-seeded Jack Sock of the United States was eliminated 6-2, 7-6 (12), 1-6, 5-7, 6-4 by 73rd-ranked Jordan Thompson of Australia.
Kyle and I will be sorting through the 20 most important people leading up to the 2015 season every day until the Central Michigan game which, as you know, is just 2 (!) days away.Porter: It’s finally Mason Rudolph time for me in the second slot. No. 2 as No. 2. It’s tough to put an entire season on the shoulders of a three-games-deep sophomore but such is life as a Power Five QB with a good defense. The good thing is he seems to have the demeanor necessary for such a task.“Mason’s going to go through a learning curve for 5-6 games,” said Mike Gundy earlier this week. “But he’s very easy for us to coach. He’s a student of the game, he’s very respectful, very low-key. He’s more like Chelf in that he’s cerebral at it.”A reminder of how special he looked at the end of last season. Boone: Finally, Kyle and I agreed on a slot. Everyone is hyped on Rudolph, with good reason. With Rudolph, the Cowboys have a heck of an arm and a deceitfully mobile quarterback who can distribute all over the field. I’m sure he has a lot to learn still, but going into his second year in Stillwater, I expect the offense to look much differently from his three starts at the end of last season. Expect more tempo, more deep balls, and more points. I watched the highlights above and my hands got a little clammy with excitement.Two. More. Days. It’s time to get weird.Beat OU in Norman then torched three 1st round draft picks in bowl game. Still has 39 games left. U Mad? pic.twitter.com/j38XOijzBP— Pistols Firing (@pistolsguy) August 28, 2015No. 3 (Porter: Adkins | Boone: Kevin Peterson)No. 4 (Porter: Salako | Boone: Ogbah)No. 5 (Porter: Gundy | Boone: Carson)No. 6 (Porter: Ogbah | Boone: Sheperd)No. 7 (Porter: Bean | Boone: Childs)No. 8 (Porter: Spencer | Boone: Taylor)No. 9 (Porter: Carson | Boone: Washington)No. 10 (Porter: Taylor | Boone: Bean)No. 11 (Porter: Maile | Boone: Burton)No. 12 (Porter: Burton | Boone: Simmons)No. 13 (Porter: Walsh | Boone: Seaton)No. 14 (Porter: Peterson | Boone: Crabtree)No. 15 (Porter: Washington | Boone: Jacobs)No. 16 (Porter: Sterns | Boone: Salako)No. 17 (Porter: Childs | Boone: Sterns)No. 18 (Porter: Sheperd | Boone: Maile)No. 19 (Porter: McEndoo | Boone: Walsh)No. 20 (Porter: Jacobs | Boone: Lampkin)If you’re looking for the comments section, it has moved to our forum, The Chamber. You can go there to comment and holler about these articles, specifically in these threads. You can register for a free account right here and will need one to comment.If you’re wondering why we decided to do this, we wrote about that here. Thank you and cheers!