Sharapova to face No. 2 Simona Halep in 1st round of U.S. Open
NEW YORK (AP) Maria Sharapova’s first Grand Slam match in more than 1+ years will come against No. 2-seeded Simona Halep at the U.S. Open.
Sharapova’s first-round matchup with two-time French Open runner-up Halep was set up by Friday’s draw.
The U.S. Tennis Association awarded a wild-card invitation to Sharapova, who is ranked only 147th after returning from a 15-month doping suspension in April. Her five major championships include the 2006 U.S. Open.
Sharapova was kicked off the tour after testing positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
The U.S. Open starts Monday.
Potential women’s quarterfinal matchups on the draw’s bottom half include Halep or Sharapova against No. 7 Johanna Konta of Britain, a semifinalist at Wimbledon; and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza against No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki or No. 9 Venus Williams, a seven-time major champion and the runner-up at the All England Club last month at age 37.
Williams’ sister, 23-time major champion Serena, is not playing in the U.S. Open because she is pregnant and expecting to give birth in September.
On the top half of the bracket, the quarterfinals could be No. 1 Karolina Pliskova against 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova; and defending champion Angelique Kerber or French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko against No. 4 Elina Svitolina or No. 15 Madison Keys of the United States.
Kerber beat Pliskova in last year’s final in New York and moved up to No. 1 in the rankings for the first time. But Kerber’s 2017 has been rough, including a first-round loss at the French Open, and she is seeded No. 6 at the U.S. Open.
The 30-year-old Sharapova was eligible to make her return to Grand Slam action at the French Open in May, but that country’s tennis federation declined to offer her a wild card. Sharapova then was going to try to qualify for Wimbledon in June, but she ended up skipping the grass-court portion of the season because of an injured left thigh.
Sharapova has been participating in tournaments via wild-card invitations, beginning on red clay at Stuttgart, Germany, in April.
Sharapova was 19 when she won her U.S. Open trophy.
Two years before that, at 17, Sharapova won her first major title at Wimbledon. She has since completed a career Grand Slam.