NEW YORK — A year ago, Maria Sharapova was sitting out the U.S. Open, getting checked by doctors and having tests on the surgically repaired right shoulder that has troubled her off and on.
Wednesday, she found herself down by a set and facing a break point early in the second, bothered by the whipping wind, her own off-target strokes and an opponent who wasn't backing down.
As dusk fell and the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights came on, Sharapova came through the way she so often does in the crucible of a third set, beating 95th-ranked Alexandra Dulgheru 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round of the Grand Slam tournament she won in 2006 but has missed twice in the past six years. Sharapova won in part because of her big shots, but also because she had more in the tank when it mattered. "Overall I felt like in the end I was in much better shape than she was, and I could have played another few sets," said Sharapova, noting her Romanian opponent had played one set over the past five weeks because of inflammation in her right wrist. "Mentally that helped me a lot."
No. 19 Venus Williams, the 2000-01 champ in New York, won 6-1, 6-4 over 78th-ranked Timea Bacsinszky at night, advancing to the third round at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2010.
No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, a finalist at Wimbledon two years ago, became the first man or woman seeded in the top 10 to lose, 6-3, 6-4 to 39th-ranked Peng Shuai of China. And No. 21 Sloane Stephens had her earliest exit at the U.S. Open, eliminated 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 by 96th-ranked Johanna Larsson of Sweden. Stephens had 63 unforced errors.
Caroline Wozniacki got her blond braid caught in her racket while hitting a forehand in her second-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, and she gamely tried to hit a backhand on the next shot, with her hair still entangled. "I almost took my head off," Wozniacki told reporters later. "It was really tangled up good, so I didn't have a chance."
Wozniacki lost the point, but she didn't lose her sense of humor. Once she got her hair and her racket separated, she had no choice but to laugh at herself. The 24-year-old Dane, seeded 10th, went on to win 6-3, 6-4, and she later tweeted a clip of the entanglement to her 675,000 followers. She explained that such snags used to happen all the time before she started braiding her hair, but this was the first post-braid incident: "It's one of those things. Us women, we keep it interesting."
Steve Johnson, a 24-year-old Californian, retired from his first-round match against Tatsuma Ito when his muscles suddenly seized up. The two-time NCAA champ at Southern Cal led two sets to one and was up a break in the fourth before he collapsed on the court and started writhing in pain.