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Maria Sharapova sparkles on return to grand slam stage

Maria Sharapova proved she will be someone to contend with for the US Open crown after the Russian wild card outlasted second seed Simona Halep.

Maria Sharapova of Russia reacts to winning against Simona Halep during their first round match. Picture: @usopen/Twitter

NEW YORK - Maria Sharapova proved she will be someone to contend with for the US Open crown after the Russian wild card outlasted second seed Simona Halep 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 on Monday, to get the year’s final grand slam off to an electrifying start.

Still shaking off the rust from a 15-month doping ban and a string of nagging injuries, the 30-year-old Sharapova needed all her skill, determination and two hours and 44 minutes to snatch victory in front of a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The victory becomes the highlight of what has been a torturous comeback for the former world number one, who returned to tennis in April after being banned after testing positive for metabolic modulator meldonium at last year’s Australian Open.

Her progress has been slowed by a thigh injury that forced her out of the Italian Open in May and more recently left arm issues in that took her out of the second round at Stanford earlier this month.

However, there was no hint of distress against an in-form Halep as she improved her record to 7-0 against the feisty Romanian in an opening round clash that was played with the intensity more befitting of a final.