Getty Images

2 years after cancer diagnosis, Duval is back at Wimbledon

Leave a comment

LONDON – Back at Wimbledon for the first time since she found out two years ago she had cancer, Vicky Duval felt her eyes welling with tears.

The 20-year-old American was moved, yes, by merely being on court once again at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament. And she also was upset by the way she was playing Monday, dropping the first eight games of what would become a 6-0, 7-5 loss to 29th-seeded Daria Kasatkina of Russia.

“More than anything,” Duval said, “today was really hard emotionally.”

Asked to explain the feelings racing through her mind out on Court 4, she said: “Obviously happy that I’m back. But tears of disappointment that I know I can be a lot better than this. So it’s just kind of going to be a process. I’m a little bit impatient right now. I’m expecting it to be a long road back, but I want it sooner than later.”

She has reason to be demanding.

At the 2013 U.S. Open, at only 17, Duval showed her promise by stunning 2011 champion Sam Stosur in the first round.

It was less than a year later, while trying to qualify for Wimbledon, that Duval was diagnosed with the blood cancer Hodgkin lymphoma. She played on, making it to the main draw and then surprisingly beating a seeded player, Sorana Cirstea.

After a yearlong break that included treatment for cancer, Duval returned to playing low-level events. Because of her time away from the main tour, Duval’s ranking is 572nd, but she is allowed to use what’s called a “protected ranking” to automatically get into eight tournaments of her choosing.

Her comeback stalled early this season, though, when she had knee surgery.

At the All England Club, simply setting foot on court was a symbolic step forward.

“The first set, I was just really overwhelmed, more than anything,” Duval said. “I couldn’t really play because, you know, it’s a lot of emotions, of the past and stuff.”

She said she put a towel over her head while being outplayed in the first set “in case something was going to happen – I was like, `I don’t want anyone to see me cry.'”

Then, in the second set, when Duval heard plenty of crowd support and made things more competitive, she said she tried to distract herself by singing Drake’s song “One Dance” in her head.

“The biggest thing was for me to come here and prove to myself that I’m past what happened to me. And even though I didn’t feel that physically I was in tiptop shape to be here, it would have killed me if I didn’t play,” Duval said. “I wanted to, more than anything, prove to myself that I’m strong enough to be back here and be past this.”

Sharapova loses to Rybarikova at Kremlin Cup

AP Photo
Leave a comment

MOSCOW (AP) Maria Sharapova was beaten by Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, ending her bid for a second title in two weeks.

Sharapova, who won the Tianjin Open two days ago, brought her usual power but lacked accuracy with some wild swings on key points.

“I felt fine physically, to be honest, especially after having played five matches in five days (in Tianjin). That was a big surprise,” Sharapova said. “Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been … Maybe if this tournament hadn’t been in Moscow, I wouldn’t have played it.”

Sharapova was under pressure on serve from the start and saved six break points before finally being broken to 6-5. She responded by breaking Rybarikova, but Sharapova’s double fault at 4-3 in the tiebreaker handed the Slovakian the momentum to close out the set.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, sealed the match after saving two break points to lead 5-4, then breaking Sharapova in the next game. Rybarikova will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Six months after she returned from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova is still trying to move back up the rankings from her current position of 57th. Her first tour appearance in Moscow in a decade drew a large and enthusiastic crowd despite taking place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, seventh-seeded Julia Goerges beat Russian qualifier Polina Monova 6-0, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

In the men’s Kremlin Cup tournament, sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur defeated Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

AP Images
2 Comments

TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.