Maria Sharapova made an emotional return to Grand Slam tennis as she defeated world number two Simona Halep in their first-round match at the US Open on Monday (28 August).
Making her first appearance at a major event since the 2016 Australian Open due to her 15-month doping suspension, the former world number one defeated Halep 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in front of a sell-out crowd in New York.
In a match that could have been worthy of a Grand Slam final, Sharapova's numerous winners proved decisive despite the Russian showing signs of rust in just her 10th match in 19 months.
Having only converted 17 out of a possible 22 break points along with 64 unforced errors, the 30-year-old did, however, slam 60 winners as she eventually won in a contest that lasted two hours and 44 minutes as the crowd stood up and applauded.
"You never know what you're going to feel until you win that match point, but everything you go through is worth it for this moment," Sharapova said after the match, as quoted on BBC. "You sometimes wonder why you put in all the work, and this is exactly why."
"It's prime-time baby - I love it. I embrace every moment of it and I love it."
There is still some strong resentment towards Sharapova as the only reason she was able to take part in Flushing Meadows was the fact that she was given a wild card.
In the buildup to her return in April, she was receiving numerous wild cards which many players felt were undeserving for a player involved in a doping scandal.
However, before the match, her Romanian opponent had no problem with it, stating that it was the decision of the US Open.
"The tournament decided [to give Sharapova a wildcard], so they can do anything they want," Halep stated, who has now lost all seven times against Sharapova. "Is not my position to talk about this. I think she's OK."
Meanwhile, Sharapova praised the grit of Halep, saying that "she is not going anywhere".
Sharapova will face Tímea Babos next on Wednesday (30 August) as the five-time Grand Slam winner looks to win a first major title since 2014.