New York: Maria Sharapova's outfit sparkled even if her play sometimes didn't during her Grand Slam return at the US Open, but the former world No.1’s run to the fourth round showed she is back in business on and off the court.
Playing her first Grand Slam since returning from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova proved a polarising presence at Flushing Meadows, feted by adoring fans but vilified in the small corners of the players' locker room.
For TV rights holders and the United States Tennis Association (USTA), seeing Sharapova's name on the entry list was akin to winning the lottery, guaranteeing a bump in ratings and capacity crowds at the 23,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium.
With the tournament ravaged by injuries and withdrawals, the Russian's return provided a splash of glitz and glamour.
“Sharapova’s doping transgression was not terribly egregious, neither performance-enhancing nor intentional, and her ban seemed unduly harsh,” said Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising. “I suspect that’s why Nike suspended their relationship, but did not drop her.”
She strolled onto floodlit Arthur Ashe as if on a catwalk, wearing a jet black dress that sparkled with Swarovski crystals for her opening match against Simona Halep and duly dumped the second seed out of the tournament.
Sharapova’s US Open ended with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 loss to Latvian Anastasija Sevastova on Sunday, but her week-long run will help polish the Russian's tarnished brand.