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Tuesday, 29 August 2017 10:51 AM BST
US Open Day 1: Sharapova makes winning return rounds up the action from Day 1 at the US Open. READ MORE

Maria Sharapova has always loved the big stage and under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium on a cool night at Flushing Meadows, she announced her return to Grand Slam tennis with one of the biggest and one of the most emotional victories of her career. 

Having returned to the tour in April after the end of her 15-month doping ban, the Russian – who was given a wild card to the final Grand Slam of the year - upset world No.2 Simona Halep with a performance that was right out of the top drawer. 

Her 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win gave her victory, just over 19 months after her last triumph at a Grand Slam, on what turned out to be a fateful day at the Australian Open in 2016.

Dressed all in black, Sharapova revelled in a sizzling atmosphere and sparkled under the lights.

She crunched 60 winners, pummelling the second serve of Halep, whose worst fears about the match came true as she lost for the seventh time in seven meetings.

At 6-4, 4-1, with a point for 5-1, the match looked over but Sharapova faltered briefly and Halep took advantage to level up at one set apiece.

But despite her lack of match practice in recent months, Sharapova has not forgotten how to win and after racing to a 3-0 lead in the decider, she held her nerve to win it, falling to her knees when Halep’s final backhand landed an inch long. 

The tears flowed soon after and the joy was written all over her face.

“I just thought that this was another day, another opportunity, another match, but this was so much more,” an emotional Sharapova said.

“You never really know what you’re going to feel until you win that match point, until you go through this moment.

"You sometimes wonder why you put in all the work. This is exactly why.”

The former Olympic gymnastic great Nadia Comeneci was there to see Halep but it was Sharapova who was inspired, playing a level of tennis few believed she was capable of, especially after she was forced to pull out of the warm-up events in Toronto and Cincinnati because of an arm injury.

“Getting that MRI in Cincinnati, just looking back at August 12th, it was not a fun day,” said Sharapova, who will play Hungary’s Timea Babos next.

“It was not a fun day getting that MRI, getting the result of it, speaking to a doctor, flying to New York, getting another opinion, with the thought that I might miss the US Open.

“Despite not playing a lot of matches coming into this, it almost seemed like I had no right to win this match today.

"And I somehow did. I think that is what I'm most proud of.”

Rising stars shine on day one

The US Open had no hesitation in putting Sascha Zverev under the lights in the second match of the night session, a real indication that they too believe he deserves star billing.

The German has won five titles in 2017 and many people believe he can go all the way this fortnight but he was made to work far harder, and far later, than anyone expected before claiming his place in round two. His 7-6(9), 7-5, 6-4 victory over Darian King, a Barbadian ranked 168th in the world, took two hours, 50 minutes and finished at 2.05am.

If Zverev is the standout player of the next generation, then Canada’s Denis Shapovalov may not be too far behind. The 18-year-old left-hander beat Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1, 6-2, having already worked his way through qualifying.

Konta out as favourites move on

Venus Williams is more evergreen than old timer but at 37, she is still chasing Grand Slam titles. Her 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win over Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia was a bit more taxing than expected but the result was never in doubt.

Seventh seed Johanna Konta was a surprise loser, going down 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia, but Wimbledon singles champion Garbińe Muguruza and Petra Kvitova both won in straight sets. In the men’s event, the Wimbledon singles finalist Marin Cilic eased through, as did Americans John Isner and Sam Querrey.

Quote of the day

“It’s tough. It’s not like I can go and start real estate or something, or restaurants or something, I’ve got no idea about that,” he said, with a smile.

“I mean, yes I can afford to do those things but I’ve got no idea, my job is to play tennis and that’s all I know. I’m not going to finish a doctor’s degree, I’m not the smartest person in the world but I only know one thing, to play tennis, it’s my life, it’s this world where you’re trapped in. Until I can hang the rackets up, maybe 33, 34, I hope longer, if I can win a major or two, maybe I can retire earlier.”

- Bernard Tomic, after his four-set defeat by Gilles Muller

Rally of the day

Hyeon Chung's and Horacio Zeballos' game of cat and mouse took the plaudits on day one...

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