But Sharapova said she was thinking only about one match at a time, especially after two tricky contests.
To be sure, her win over Babos was not her best performance, especially in the first set. But Sharapova is surely still scraping off some rust after serving a 15-month suspension for testing positive for the banned substance meldonium.
Credit Ben Solomon for The New York Times
That penalty ended in the spring, and Sharapova returned with a ranking of No. 262. She has had uneven results since then while steadily climbing to No. 146. But the U.S. Open granted her a wild-card entry into the main draw and placed her at Arthur Ashe Stadium for her match against Halep on the opening night of the tournament.
That was when she dropped to her knees after winning the match and cried, so unexpected was the win. But Tuesday was more about surviving.
Babos was in control during much of the first set, and, although Sharapova forced a tiebreaker, Babos asserted her control there, too. Sharapova did not take a lengthy bathroom break after Babos won the set, as she did after losing the second set to Halep on Monday. (Halep noted after the match that Sharapova “always” does that, indicating that she does it for tactical advantage.)
Instead, Sharapova returned to the court with fury. Her serve improved as the match progressed, and she ended with 12 aces, including two in the final game of the second set, which she won without dropping a point.
A key moment in that set came with Sharapova serving at 2-3. A 10-minute, 16-point game ensued, and Sharapova emerged with the game after firing a service winner to end it.
By then, it was clear that she would not yield control, and Babos was showing obvious signs of stress. She lost her serve in the opening game of the third set, with Sharapova punishing her second serve. Babos won only 29 percent of her second serves.
Sharapova consolidated her break in the next game, then broke again when Babos was serving at 1-3.
By now, it was only a matter of time, even if her agent, Max Eisenbud, found it difficult to relax. Eisenbud was spotted by television cameras watching the match nervously from the very top row of the massive stadium.
On Monday, he greeted Sharapova when she came off the court with a big hug, and then he took off his hat and shielded his face, apparently hiding tears, so overcome was he by the event. He did not cry on Wednesday.
But if Sharapova continues to advance, there could be more tears of joy later in the tournament.
Source: New York Times