August 27, 2017 / 4:43 AM / 3 months ago

Tough U.S. Open draw nothing new for Halep

(Reuters) - U.S. Open hopeful Simona Halep said she was not surprised to learn that she drew a tough first-round match-up against former world number one Maria Sharapova since such luck has become the norm for the tournament’s number two seed.

Aug 9, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Simona Halep of Romania plays a shot against Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia (not pictured) during the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Aviva Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports/Files

The match will mark Sharapova’s first major tournament appearance since serving a 15-month doping suspension.

Halep is one of a handful of women vying to become the world number one but to do so she will first have to overcome the powerful Russian, who has defeated her in all six of their previous meetings.

“My reaction was normal because this year I had very tough draws every time, almost,” the 25-year-old Romanian told reporters on Saturday.

“Of course I was a little bit like, how is this possible again? First round of a grand slam.”

“But I felt okay. I did my practice normal. I didn’t have, like, something emotional.”

It has been a trying year for the world number two, who has been frustratingly close to assuming top spot from Karolina Pliskova but has been unable to seal the deal.

She suffered a surprising first-round loss to American Shelby Rogers at the Australian Open, where she had to be treated between sets for a knee injury.

She lost the French Open in heartbreaking fashion when the unseeded Jelena Ostapenko came from behind to claim the title.

And she was also up a set on Johanna Konta before the Brit staged a comeback and ousted her in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in July.

For Halep, the key to fulfilling her promise might be to focus on the task at hand and not look ahead.

“I‘m not thinking any more,” she said of the possiblity of becoming world number one.

“I thought about it too much and maybe the pressure came in important moments, so now it’s gone.”

“Everyone can take the number one and if it’s going to happen, I will deserve it.”

Reporting by Rory Carroll,; Editing by Neville Dalton

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