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September 24, 2017

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Sharapova shocked by loss to Latvia's Sevastova

Drawcard Maria Sharapova suffered a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 loss to Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova as Russia's five-time grand slam champion played her first major since returning from an anti-doping ban in the spring.

Sevastova quit the game in 2013 with various injuries but regained fitness and made a return just under two years later, working her way up on the Challenger circuit.

Sharapova, who won the Open in 2006, was shaping up as the spotlight player on the women's side as she gets back into the game after serving 15 months for a taking a prescription medicine - suddenly declared illegal in late 2015 - which had been prescribed to her for a decade.

"It's been a really great ride in the last week," Sarapova said. " But 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 the opportunity. I did my best, I can be proud of that."

The match was played under the closed roof of the Ashe stadium after a rainy start to the day.

Sharapova went down fighting against her world number 17 opponent, saving three match points before making her exit from her fifth tournament since returning to the WTA.

The Russian committed 51 unforced errors in the two-and-a-quarter-hour contest. She claimed the opening set but was unable to keep up the pressure on her Baltic opponent.

"I couldn't hit her off the court, that's for sure, so I had to have a game plan," Sevastova said. "I had to play a lot of slice, mixing it up, forehand running, so that she moves to her forehand.

"You prepare yourself for these matches, you play the sport for these matches. I was ready. I played last year on Ashe. I knew what to expect."

Sevastova will next face another comeback player in American Sloane Stephens, who beat Germany's Julia Goerges 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

Stephens stood well down the ranks at the start of the year after several seasons of injuries.

Ninth seed Venus Williams reached her 39th quarter-final at a grand slam with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 defeat of Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro.

Petra Kvitova battled from 4-1 down in the opening set to slowly turn the tide against third-seeded fellow Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.

"It's challenging to play on the big stage, said Kvitova, now into her second Open quarter-final after earning her 21st victory against a top five opponent.

"If this tournament ends now, it will be a happy ending for me."

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