Maria Sharapova kept the shocks coming on Wednesday night when she pulled out of the US Open.
The pain in her serving shoulder that has plagued her since before the French Open in May has flared again, forcing her to pull out of the final slam of the year just 24 hours before the draw on Thursday.
The tournament director David Brewer confirmed late on Wednesday night: "Maria has informed us that she will be unable to compete at the US Open this year due to a right shoulder bursitis and has withdrawn from the tournament. We wish her a speedy recovery and look forward to her return to New York next year."
The world No 3 has had a turbulent time lately, with a hip injury compounding her chronic shoulder problems and she has struggled for form since her exit from Wimbledon in June. She lost in her first match of the Cincinnati Open last week, in three sets to the young American Sloane Stephens, and was in sullen mood in the post-match press conference.
Before she left town, she had her father, Yuri, fire Jimmy Connors, the eight-time slam champion she had hired after Wimbledon. He was as bemused as everyone else, and returned to Santa Barbara after their one-match association while Sharapova moved on to New York – where she made more headlines.
When her connections fed the media a story about her applying to a Florida court to change her name to Sugarpova, the candy she endorses, for the duration of the tournament, the universal reaction was incredulity. As unlikely as the prospect of a name change was, she got the requisite publicity, simultaneously attracting widespread criticism for a stunt that smacked of exploitation of the tournament for commercial gain.
Max Eisenbud, the agent she shares with Britain's Laura Robson, had to apply some quick emergency balm to the fiasco, telling reporters: "We ultimately decided against it. Maria has pushed her team to do fun, out-of-the-box-type things to get the word out about Sugarpova. In Miami, we're going to fill a glass truck full of candy and drive it around town. This was an idea that fell along those lines. But, at the end of the day, we would have to change all her identification, she has to travel to Japan and China right after the tournament and it was going to be very difficult."
That Asian trip might now be brought forward. It is the second time Sharapova has withdrawn from the tournament, her right shoulder also forcing her to pull out in 2008, after which she had surgery that kept her out of tennis for nearly a year.
The seedings, meanwhile, will be adjusted with little consequence. Poland's little artist, Agnieszka Radwanska, moves up to No 3, Sara Errani of Italy is at 4 and the Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova joins the cut-off point at 32nd seed.
Whatever the excitement created by the withdrawal of the most glamorous player in the game, it will not have a material affect on the tournament. She played reasonably well against Stephens last week but was struggling towards the end of the three sets and probably would have been in poor shape to make a decent challenge anyway.
Her rivalry with Serena Williams has long been played out in the media rather than on the court and the defending champion now finds her biggest challenge coming from the world No 2, Victoria Azarenka, who beat her in the Cincinnati final over three compelling sets.
While there is barely disguised loathing between Williams and Sharapova – driven largely by their various romantic attachments – the American and Azarenka get on famously. This tournament might have lost a little edge because of Sharapova's absence, but there is plenty to savour on court over the next fortnight.
Dan Evans, meanwhile, is playing the sort of tennis that could get him into the main draw of the men's tournament.
Evans, recently elevated to British No 2, has reached two finals in the past few weeks and was impressive again beating the Canadian Peter Polansky 6-2, 6-3 in just over an hour in the first round of the qualifying tournament at Flushing Meadows on Wednesday.
So, the defending champion Andy Murray might just have company when the tournament starts on Monday. He has been critical of Evans in the past for his lack of dedication but has followed his improved form with interest.
Earlier Sam Murray, ranked 190 in the world, was in control throughout her 6-4, 6-1 win over the 23-year-old Australian Arina Rodionova but Tara Moore went out 4-6, 6-1, 4-6 to Catalina Castano, of Columbia.
On Thursday, James Ward, who dropped only four games winning his first match on Tuesday, plays the German Mathias Bachinger, seeded 27, and Elena Baltacha, who started with a good three-set win over the promising American Melanie Oudin, plays the Ukrainian Olga Savchuk.
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image: © marianne bevis