September 2, 2018 / 1:22 AM / 24 days ago

Working U.S. Open night shift fine with Sharapova

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova continued to enjoy working the U.S. Open night shift with a 6-3 6-2 humbling of 10th seeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko on Saturday, improving her record to 22-0 under the Arthur Ashe Stadium floodlights.

Sept 1, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Maria Sharapova of Russia after beating Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in a third round match on day six of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

There is no denying Sharapova’s love for the big stage or the New York crowd’s love for her and the five-time Grand Slam champion admitted that she feeds off the buzz.

“It’s the energy you get, no doubt I feed off this energy,” said Sharapova, who used that inspiration to carry her to victory at the 2006 U.S. Open.

“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.

Sept 1, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia hits to Maria Sharapova of Russia in a third round match on day six of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

“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.”

Even if the match was played at night there was no masking the poor quality of the opening set that featured four breaks of serve.

Ostapenko, who was the runaway leader in double faults at this year’s final Grand Slam, had three alone in her opening service game but was not punished for her sloppiness with Sharapova unable to convert any of five break chances.

Eventually Sharapova would cash in on Ostapenko’s generosity with the Latvian offering up 11 break opportunities and the Russian converting three - more than enough to take the first set.

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“First game was a tricky game,” said Ostapenko, who had 41 unforced errors to go along with six double faults. “But then I served two good serves on deuce. I won that game.

“Then everything went just not my way. I was making so many unforced errors.

“With that level, it was tough to beat Maria.”

The nightmare serving continued into the second set with four consecutive breaks before Sharapova finally managed a hold for 3-2.

Ostapenko, however, would not manage to hold her serve at any point in the set and Sharapova broke the 2017 French Open champion twice more to clinch the victory.

The 31-year-old will meet Carla Suarez Navarro in the last 16 after the Spaniard upset French sixth seed Caroline Garcia 5-7 6-4 7-6(4).

Editing by Nick Mulvenney

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