Queen of night games loses first ever match in New York.
Darkness fell over Maria Sharapova on Monday as the queen of the night at the US Open lost her first career evening match at Flushing Meadows, going down to Carla Suarez-Navarro.
The lights-out performance by the Spaniard came on the 30th birthday of Suarez Navarro, who put out the five-time Grand Slam champion 6-4, 6-3. Sharapova had won 22 straight at night in the Ashe stadium.
Sharapova, the 2006 champion here, was felled by 38 unforced errors and eight double faults in a disappointing performance in front of the night owl fans who populate the Ashe stadium, often freely expressing their support or opinions fuelled by adult beverages on sale around the grounds.
“I thrive on playing at night, but I didn’t take care of the chances that I had,” Sharapova said. “By chances, I mean the balls that were a little bit shorter.
“I hesitated to move forward. The balls where I did attack, I made unforced errors, especially on the inside-out forehand. I was a bit too up and down.”
Suarez Navarro received mass birthday greetings from the crowd afterwards: “It’s the first time I’ve played this year at night. I’m very happy because I played a good match,” the winner said.
”I know that Maria plays every day here. For me it’s totally different, so I’m really happy because I really played a really good match. I really enjoyed this crowd, this amazing night session.
“Sometimes on this court, it is easy to (get confused).. the crowd, the music, it’s crazy. It’s a really good show, but for the players sometimes it’s tough, especially for me.
“I just tried to be focused. I tried to think about not too much things, just my work, my job. Today it worked.”
Sharapova lost the fourth-rounder round in 91 minutes as the Spainard beat her for the first time in six tries.
Suarez-Navarro will line up next against Madison Keys, who kept on pace for a possible repeat of her 2017 US Open final final, with the American advancing over Slovak Dominika Cibulkova 6-1 6-3.
Crowds poured onto the grounds at Flushing Meadows on the Labour Day holiday with another heatwave day on offer to start the new week.
Keys, seeded 14th, made sure that Cibulkova could not stage an another ambush after knocking out 2016 tournament winner Angelique Kerber in the previous round.
Keys has advanced to the last eight with the loss of just one set; she maintained that level, losing 10 points on serve in the 76-minute victory.
Cibulkova played her last Open fourth-round eight year ago and was unable to make the appearance count. Keys advanced on her second match point from a Cibulkova forehand miscue.
Keys took victory with 25 winners, 15 unforced errors and dropped serve once while breaking five times.
“Today I think I served really well,” she said. “The biggest thing is just being able to push her back off of the baseline and dictate points like that.
“Today I played really well. I think I served well, except for one game. Other than that, I did a really good job to stay in some important games where I was down love-30 or 15-40.
“That’s what I’m most happy about.”
Keys will be playing the third Grand Slam final of the season after Melbourne and Roland Garros.
The eight-match summer hot streak of Aryna Sanalenko was ended by Japan’s Naomi Osaka, who won a battle of 20-year-old hopes 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
Sabalenko, who won the New Haven title and three rounds in New York, ended disappointingly on a double-fault.
Osaka, winner last March at Indian Wells, will be playing in her first quarter-final at a Slam; she joined male compatriot Kei Nishikori in the last eight in the first-ever Japanese double at this stage of a major since Wimbledon, 1995 through Kimiko Date and Shuzo Matsuoka.
“I’m glad I was able to be a part of something like that today,” Osaka said. “I always thought if I can keep up with him, that would be really cool.”
“Every time I play a Grand Slam, people ask me am I going to go farther than the third round,” said Osaka.
“In Australia I went to the fourth round, then people were like, are you going to go farther than that or is that where you’re going to stop?
“I’ve always dreamed of playing here and going to the quarter-finals and further. So I’m just glad I could do one of my goals.”
Next up for Osaka is Ukraine’s 36th-ranked Lesia Tsurenko, who overcame a leg injury and fatigue in the draining heat to post a defeat of Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova, 6-7, 7-5, 6-2.
The pair combined for a massive 129 unforced errors – 72 for the loser – in a struggle featuring 13 service breaks.
““I was really dizzy and I was just asking nature … I don’t know, the gods … to move the shade faster,” she said.
“I was 2-0 down in the second set and then I said I need another five minutes to keep fighting, and I will feel better. … I just want to rest really and then forget about this match because it was really, really tough.”