NEW YORK — There might be little love lost between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, but the American’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was generous in his praise of the Russian’s return to Grand Slam action on Monday at the US Open, with a performance he described as “incredible.”
Granted a wild card into the event after several injuries following her return from a 15-month doping ban in April, Sharapova shocked world No. 2 Simona Halep 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 under the lights at Flushing Meadows with a performance that belied her lack of match practice after a summer that saw her play just one match between May and her arrival in New York.
As the coach of Serena Williams, Mouratoglou has been on the winning side against Sharapova 11 times out of 11, but he was full of praise for the way she performed.
“You could only be impressed,” Mouratoglou said Tuesday in an interview at Flushing Meadows. “Not by the way she handled the match, not by the fact that she could win, because she was 6-0 [head-to-head] against Halep and because Halep is in the middle of a very difficult mental period. But to be able to play that level for three sets and to step up in the third, after more than two hours of play, this is really, really impressive. After 15 months without playing one match and not so many since she came back, that’s incredible.”
Mouratoglou, who has his hands full with the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, his presenting roles on ESPN and Eurosport at the US Open and his book, “The Coach,” said it might be tough for Sharapova to sustain that level of intensity throughout the two weeks.
“I think this match was special because clearly there was a lot of adrenaline, she was coming back, on the center court of the US Open, playing the No. 2 in the world. She was over-pumped,” he said. “It can help find the physical and mental resources, even though you don’t have them. But then, to recover from that and be able to do that match after match for seven different matches, it’s a different story.”