Sharapova vs. Halep; Federer-Nadal could be semi
NEW YORK (AP) — Maria Sharapova’s first Grand Slam match in more than 1¢ years will come against No. 2-seeded Simona Halep at the U.S. Open.
Sharapova’s first-round matchup with two-time French Open runner-up Halep was set up by Friday’s draw, which also put Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the same side of the men’s bracket, meaning they could meet only in the semifinals.
The U.S. Tennis Association awarded a wild-card invitation to Sharapova, who is ranked only 147th after returning from a 15-month doping suspension in April, so she could have been randomly placed to face any other player.
Sharapova was kicked off the tour after testing positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
Her five major championships include the 2006 U.S. Open.
The year’s last Grand Slam tournament starts Monday.
Nadal is seeded No. 1 at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2010 after returning to the ATP’s top ranking this week. Federer is seeded No. 3. They have played 37 head-to-head matches, including 12 at major tournaments — at least twice in a final — but never at Flushing Meadows in any round.
Federer beat Nadal in the Australian Open final in January. Nadal then won his 10th French Open trophy in June, and Federer won his eighth Wimbledon title in July.
Federer owns a record 19 Grand Slam championships. Nadal ranks second among men with 15.
The bottom half’s semifinal could be No. 2 Andy Murray vs. No. 4 Alexander Zverev.
The potential men’s quarterfinals could be Nadal against No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov, Federer against No. 6 Dominic Thiem, Murray against No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Zverev against No. 5 Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion.
Possible women’s quarterfinal matchups on the draw’s bottom half include Halep or Sharapova against No. 7 Johanna Konta of Britain, a semifinalist at Wimbledon; and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza against No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki or No. 9 Venus Williams, a seven-time major champion and the runner-up at the All England Club last month at age 37.
On the top half of the bracket, the quarterfinals could be No. 1 Karolina Pliskova against 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova; and defending champion Angelique Kerber or French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko against No. 4 Elina Svitolina or No. 15 Madison Keys of the United States.
Kerber beat Pliskova in last year’s final in New York and moved up to No. 1 in the rankings for the first time. But Kerber’s 2017 has been rough, including a first-round loss at the French Open, and she is seeded No. 6 at the U.S. Open.
Sharapova has been participating in tournaments via wild-card invitations, beginning on red clay at Stuttgart, Germany, in April.
Sharapova was 19 when she won her U.S. Open trophy. Two years before that, at 17, Sharapova won her first major title at Wimbledon. She has since completed a career Grand Slam.