Forget the fact that Alexandra Dulgheru is ranked fifth among five Romanians now ranked inside the Top 100 on the WTA charts, a list that includes world No. 2 Simona Halep. On Wednesday afternoon at the US Open, the 25-year-old from Bucharest played as if she were on top of the heap. Facing five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova on the very court where the Russian claimed the 2006 US Open title, the unseeded Dulgheru put quite a scare into the fifth seed, who had to dig deep in order to pull off the 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win in a match that lasted more than two-and-a-half hours.
Dulgheru, who first cracked the Top 30 in 2011 but has since struggled with knee injuries, certainly played a gutsy match against the former No. 1, going for her shots and playing aggressively from the baseline. She also took advantage of nine double faults and 46 unforced errors from her opponent.
It was Dulgheru who drew first blood when, serving for the first set at 5-4, 40-15, she sent a forehand down the line for a clean winner. Sharapova finally found some momentum midway though the second set, breaking Dulgheru at love when she forced a backhand error. Sharapova would force a third set, and she showed why she’s been an elite performer on the WTA Tour for more than a decade. She kicked off the set with a break – her second of four on the day – and was soon ahead 4-1. Three games later the match was over.
"She played really well," said Sharapova. "It was difficult. Obviously, the conditions were tough. You start in the sun, you finish under the lights. It was a very long match. Overall, I felt like in the end I was in much better shape than she was and I could have played another few sets. Mentally that helped me a lot."