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Rediff.com  » Sports » Sharapova returns to the US Open spotlight

Sharapova returns to the US Open spotlight

August 30, 2017 14:23 IST

'Pliskova is becoming an all-round player that's why I think there is no question that she's going to win a Slam.'

Maria Sharapova

IMAGE: Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her first round match. Photograph: Elsa/Getty Images

Maria Sharapova will be back in the US Open spotlight on Wednesday hoping she can come up with a winning encore to her electrifying first round victory over second seed Simona Halep.

Topping that three-set thriller will prove a challenge and the former world number one, playing her first Grand Slam since returning from a 15-month doping ban, will be happy with a win of any sort against Timea Babos.

On paper the Hungarian should not present the same level of threat Sharapova faced in Halep but the five-time Grand Slam winner will be venturing into unknown against the world number 59.

"We've never played against each other, on the tour that is rare and it will be interesting," said Sharapova.

"She is a big hitter, a big server and a little different of a game."

Sharapova will be the centre court headliner on a busy day as officials scramble to clear up a backlog of matches created by a steady rain on Tuesday, when just five matches were completed and 64 postponed.

It will be Canada Day on Arthur Ashe Stadium with crowd favourite Eugenie Bouchard taking on Russian Evgeniya Rodina to open the day and teenage sensation Denis Shapovalov wrapping up the action against seasoned Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Venus Williams will carry her family standard out onto the main showcourt against Oceane Dodin, while 2009 men's champion Juan Martin del Potro will try to recapture some Flushing Meadows magic in his first round match against Henri Laaksonen.

After also seeing his first round match washed out by rain on Tuesday, Australian bad boy Nick Kyrgios will open his account against compatriot John Millman on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

'Pliskova's controlled aggression will win her a Slam'

Karolina Pliskova

IMAGE: Karolina Pliskova in action during her first round match. Photograph: Elsa/Getty Images

Karolina Pliskova will undoubtedly win a Grand Slam title at some point because she, unlike many other players, is able to control her aggression, according to former world number one Mats Wilander.

The world number one has yet to prevail in a major but Swede Wilander, who is at the US Open as an analyst for Eurosport, thinks she will achieve that goal in the next two years.

"I think Pliskova is the next young player to win a Slam," Wilander said in his daily chat with Reuters at Flushing Meadows, after the 25-year-old Czech made light work of Magda Linette of Poland on Tuesday.

"She doesn't really have a weakness apart from her movement maybe. The way she plays ... she's smart, she serves well, she's going to become a player that you're going have to beat because she's not going to beat herself anymore."

Wilander explained that Pliskova has been getting much better at finding the balance between aggression and accuracy.

"That's one of those changes that most players cannot make," he said.

"Once they play aggressive tennis, it's not easy to stay aggressive but not beating yourself by missing, and she is sort of working towards perfecting that.

"It's a fine balance and she's getting good at being aggressive without making unforced errors. It's controlled aggression."

Other players are as aggressive as Pliskova but just being a hard hitter does not win you grand slam titles.

"A lot of other players have not made that correction like Madison Keys, she's just hitting the ball really hard, Coco Vandeweghe is just basically hitting the ball very hard most of the time," said Wilander.

"Pliskova is becoming an all-round player that's why I think there is no question that she's going to win a Slam."

Maria Sharapova and Garbine Muguruza are Wilander's favourites for the title at the US but the Swede is confident Pliskova's time will come.

"She looks comfortable being number one in the world which is rare," he said.

"Her drive is to win a Slam. She has easy goals to set. She's improving and she's going to continue to improve over the next couple of years because she has not reached her goals."

Source:
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