New York: Playing her first match since a blowout loss to Serena Williams in London and a stomach virus that forced her out of two warm up tournaments, Maria Sharapova returned to tennis in fine fashion on Monday at the US Open.
The third-seeded Russian came back from a three-week break and defeated Melinda Czink of Hungary 6-2, 6-2 in a stress-free, 67-minute first-round match at blustery Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Her victory in front of the half-filled stadium was her first match since a 6-0, 6-1 loss to Williams at the London Games in a gold-medal showdown that looked and felt more like one of these first-round wipeouts Sharapova usually inflicts.
Turns out, Sharapova was dealing with some stomach pain then, which only got worse a few weeks later. She went to the doctor for a series of tests, including an ultrasound to see if she was pregnant. The test turned up negative.
"Just because of the pain I was having, it was really weird," Sharapova said. "They told me I was fine, not pregnant. Then, I'm like, 'Can I get my money back?'" It has been an eventful summer for one of tennis' biggest stars.
After serving as the flagbearer for Russia, then finishing as the silver medalist at the Olympics at Wimbledon, Sharapova's original plan was to come to North America and play in tuneups in Montreal and Cincinnati to acclimate herself to the hard courts.
But the Olympics took a lot out of Sharapova, and when she arrived in Canada, she got knocked down by a stomach ache so bad that she went to the doctor.
It turned out to be a virus — her body's way of telling her to take it easy, she said, so she withdrew from the events and took a few weeks off.
"It was a nice break in a way, but after so many weeks of practicing, you're just eager to get back on the court," she said.
She looked eager to get off the court, as well, showing very few signs of rust against her 88th-ranked opponent. Sharapova said it was not problem getting the blowout loss to Williams out of her mind.
"It doesn't stick with you," she said. "I mean, personally, I've been part of many different types of matches in my career. Looking back at that week, it was really special. It was so hectic."