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Watch: Sharapova sparkles at US Open

Ousts world no. 2 Halep in thrilling encounter

Maria Sharapova hits a return against Simona Halep at Flushing Meadows.

Maria Sharapova hits a return against Simona Halep at Flushing Meadows.

An emotional Maria Sharapova collapsed to the court in tears after knocking out Simona Halep in a show-stopping return to grand slam tennis.

The first-round US Open blockbuster certainly lived up to the hype under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium, with Sharapova ultimately overpowering Halep to win 6-4 4-6 6-3 in her first grand slam appearance since serving a 15-month doping ban.

The 2006 champion had looked set to win in straight sets when she led 4-1 in the second only to let it slip but recovered to clinch a dramatic victory after two hours and 44 minutes.

Sharapova, not known for public displays of emotion, dropped to her knees and then sat and sobbed on her chair, her face a picture of disbelief.

Addressing the crowd, the 30-year-old said: "I just thought this was another day, another opportunity, another match but this was so much more and I didn't want to think about it. You sometimes wonder why you put in all the work and this is exactly why."

So what had she learned from a match that felt more like a final than an opening-night encounter?

"That behind this black dress with Swarovski crystals this girl has a lot of grit and she is not going anywhere," said Sharapova.

Snubbed by the French Open and then injured for Wimbledon, where she would have had to fight her way through qualifying, Sharapova was controversially given a wild card in New York.

If there were dissenters among the crowd, they kept their thoughts to themselves as the Russian strode onto court in her sparkly dress with cheers ringing in her ears.

She had beaten Halep in all six of their previous meetings but this time came in as the firm underdog having played just four tournaments since the end of her suspension in April.

Injuries have been her nemesis and she had managed only one match in more than three months.

But from the start it was clear Sharapova was fit and in the mood to write headlines on the court at last.

She said: "When the draw came out, I knew what a difficult match-up this would be, how much excitement was behind this match-up and the hype.

"It almost seemed like I had no right to win this match today. And I somehow did. I think that is what I'm most proud of.

"I definitely have to value the feeling that I have now. I think that's important. I can't take that for granted. I can't take the level for granted. I can't take my emotions for granted.

"This is a big win for me, and I will enjoy it, then move on to the next one."

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