It hasn’t been the smoothest of grand slam returns for Maria Sharapova but the Russian says she is just happy to be back playing on the sport’s biggest stages.
Sharapova’s run at the US Open, her first grand slam following a 15-month doping ban, was ended by Anastasija Sevastova Sunday after the Latvian won their fourth round match 5-7 6-4 6-2.
“It’s been a really great ride in the last week,” the 30-year-old Sharapova told reporters.
“Ultimately I can take a lot from this week. It’s great to get that major out of the way. It was an incredible opportunity. I’m very thankful for it. I did my best. I can be proud of that.”
Over the last week, Sharapova had to endure some barbed comments from some of her fellow players, notably Caroline Wozniacki’s criticism that the Russian had received preferential treatment over court scheduling for her matches.
“I feel like I’m really beyond that,” said Sharapova, who had needed a wild card to compete in the last grand slam of the season.
“I think there’s only a way to show it on the court, because that’s what really matters to me.
“I have so many things in my life but there’s a desire to keep going for more and to keep living through these moments out on these courts.
“That’s special and that’s meaningful. As long as I have that desire, I’ll be there. That’s what’s important to me.”
Sevastova was diplomatic when asked about Sharapova’s return to grand slam events.
“I think some players have that. I don’t have that. I have great respect for her,” said the 26-year-old Latvian.
Sharapova’s next task in the remaining tournaments of this season is to boost her ranking to ensure she isn’t looking for a wild card at Australian Open in 2018.
The Russian will be 31 in April, but she believes she his plenty left to offer.
“When I was in my middle 20s, I didn’t think that my body would be ready to compete at such a level but I just got a completely new appreciation of what the body can do at 30 or past 30,” she said.
“I can take a lot of examples from champions that are still playing, competing, and doing incredibly well, and that’s inspiring.”
Meanwhile two-time major winner Petra Kvitova, whose career was jeopardized by a knife attack in December, knocked out reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 to set up a quarterfinal match with seven-time grand slam winner Venus Williams.
Sevastova will play Sloane Stephens in the last eight.