A resurgent Maria Sharapova breezed into the fourth round of the US Open on Saturday, extending her incredible record under lights.
The Russian superstar surprised the bookmakers to overcome dangerous tenth seed Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets in the night session in New York, extending her record to 22-0 under the lights at Flushing Meadows.
Reflecting on the past, Sharapova revealed that she was intimidated by the lights of the Big Apple at first, but learned to love the atmosphere.
“I don’t remember how old I was when I played my first night match, but I’m sure I was young enough to still be intimidated by the city and the lights and the atmosphere, the noise, as anyone that’s quite young would be,” the 31-year-old told wtatennis.com.
“But I really turned that around. I think I thrive on that. I love the atmosphere. I love that they know how to cheer hard. I thrive on playing under the lights for some reason. I love that challenge.”
Last year, Sharapova was handed a wild card entry to the tournament – her first grand slam since serving out her doping ban – and lost in three sets in the fourth round.
This time around, the 22 seed is there on merit and will be hoping to go one better at the very least. Speaking about her current form, Sharapova is feeling confident.
“I hit quite well, served much better. I think putting all those things together gave me a good enough scoreline,” continued the five-time grand slam winner.
“I thought I just did enough to get another ball back, moved really well. In the points that I lost, maybe I just didn’t take enough steps. Didn’t feel that she was hurting me as much. Felt like I had a little bit more time today. Just was a little bit more alert on my feet. So I think that helped me.”
Sharapova is set to face 30th seed Carla Suarez Navarro on Monday, who she leads 4-1 in their head-to-head.