If there ever was a year Maria Sharapova could stumble at night in Flushing, it was Wednesday at the new Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Sharapova, suffering through an injury-prone year, came in as the 22nd seed after losing in the first round at Wimbledon.
The 31-year-old Russian faced a player coming out of retirement in Patty Schnyder, now 39. They hadn’t met since 2008.
After cruising for most of the night, Sharapova survived to carry on to the second round with a 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) U.S. Open victory to move to 21-0 in Open night matches.
The match ended almost at midnight as Sharapova led 5-1 in the second set before nearly folding. Her serve was shaky, piling up nine double faults.
While her Sugarpova candy company is thriving, her tennis isn’t.
“I feel like that’s kind of been the story of this year, is coming into events with not enough matches,’’ Sharapova said. “I’m doing the best that I can. Just sometimes your body doesn’t quite cooperate exactly the way you want it to.”
Schnyder became the oldest player to qualify for a Grand Slam via qualifier. But Sharapova has too much experience in New York at night.
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“I actually didn’t grow up enjoying playing or actually being in New York City,’’ the 2006 Open champion revealed. “It was very intimidating as a teenager. I’ve really embraced it in the last decade. Ever since my victory, I’ve loved using it, learned how to use the energies — no matter up or down — the crowd possesses.’’
She laughed off a question that some — including 2017 Open champion Sloane Stephens — believes the new Armstrong Stadium is too noisy. Stephens cited trains, planes, concessionaires in the lower bowl and fans walking to their seats at wrong times.
“There’s a little bit more noise than maybe some of the other stadiums that I’ve played at,’’ Sharapova said. “It’s kind of part of the U.S. Open. You can’t really shy away from noise if you want to be a champion in New York City, right? I think you have to embrace it.”
It’s unclear if Sharapova was referring to Stephens.