Sharapova holds off Kenin to reach last 16 at US Open
Maria Sharapova's hopes of a sixth grand slam crown remain alive after the former world number one defeated American teenager Sofia Kenin in the US Open third round.
Playing her first grand slam since the 2016 Australian Open, having tested positive for a banned substance at Melbourne Park last year, Sharapova overcame Kenin 7-5 6-2 in New York on Friday.
Ranked below the 18-year-old, Sharapova was tested in an even opening set before the 2006 US Open winner eased to victory at Flushing Meadows.
Sharapova - who returned in April from a 15-month suspension for violating anti-doping rules but was denied a wildcard for the French Open and then pulled out of Wimbledon qualifying due to injury - will meet 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova in the round of 16.
It was a topsy-turvy start to the match, with holds of serve at a premium following three successive breaks.
Kenin saved two break points in the second game but she was unable to fend off a third as Sharapova broke for a 2-0 lead.
The young American, however, kept her composure to regain the break immediately, only to drop serve the very next game after Sharapova executed a delightful drop shot.
There was a chance for the streak of breaks to continue on Sharapova's serve but she denied Kenin, albeit unconvincingly, to grab a 4-1 lead.
Sharapova's lead was short-lived, however, as Kenin reeled off three consecutive games to level the set.
Kenin was unable to maintain her charge as a tie-break loomed after Sharapova - who tallied 28 unforced errors in 66 minutes - broke in the 12th game to close out the set.
That clearly deflated Kenin, who lost her way in the second set, falling 3-1 behind.
Kenin attempted one last rally, with a partisan crowd behind her, but Sharapova held on to move into the last 16 at the US Open for the first time since 2014.
Sharapova bt Kenin 7-5 6-2
Sharapova - 38/33
Kenin - 7/16
Sharapova - 8/7
Kenin - 1/6
BREAK POINTS WON
Sharapova - 6/11
Kenin - 3/10
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Sharapova - 54
Kenin - 65
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Sharapova - 72/42
Kenin - 52/27
Sharapova - 75
Kenin - 59