On current form there is nobody more likely to win a three-set battle of attrition than Maria Sharapova. The Russian lost the first set to Romania's Alexandra Dulgheru here last night at the US Open but responded in typical fashion to book a third-round meeting with Sabine Lisicki. Sharapova won 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 after a gruelling contest that lasted two hours and 38 minutes.
Sharapova’s recent record in three-set matches is remarkable. When she came from behind to beat Simona Halep in this summer’s French Open final it was the 20th time in a row that she had won a clay-court match that had gone to three sets.
The habit now appears to be spreading to hard courts. Sharapova was well below her best in the opening set against Dulgheru, but eventually outplayed the world No 95 to take her place in the last 32.
“She played really well,” Sharapova said afterwards. “Although I started off really well in the first couple of games, I didn't take the opportunity to go up 3-0. After that she started getting a little bit of a rhythm.
“It was difficult. Obviously the conditions were tough. You start in the sun, you finish under the lights. It was a very long match. Overall I felt like in the end I was in much better shape than she was and I could have played another few sets. Mentally that helped me a lot.”
She added: “I think physically I'm in a very good position. I think that's shown a lot in my three-set statistics this year. I think I played more at this point in the year than I have in all of my career. The numbers are quite high, and I've been able to recover quite well.
“I don't think that's something that I would have been able to do and recover from as quickly as I'm able to today. But I think that takes a lot of work and obviously commitment. Whatever it is - hours on the court, hours in the gym - it's just finding that combination to get yourself in that good shape.”
Venus Williams also booked her place in the third round, beating Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky 6-1, 6-4. Williams, who won the second of her two US Open titles 13 years ago, had too much power for her opponent in the first set, but 25-year-old Bacsinszky responded well in the second.
However, the world No 78’s resistance finally crumbled when she was broken at 4-4. Williams, who is through to the third round for the first time since 2010, went on to serve out for victory, though she had to save a break point with a 96mph second serve before securing the win when her opponent netted a backhand.
“It’s good to be out here,” Williams said afterwards. “As the tournament goes on it will get tougher so I’m really pleased to have pulled it out here.”