Getty Images Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep

It's Day 1 at the U.S. Open, and it's already time for some bad blood. The first primetime match of 2017 features one of the budding rivarlies of women's tennis: Simona Halep vs. Maria Sharapova.

Sharapova, 30, has five Grand Slam titles and spent 21 weeks as world No. 1 but hasn't played much since a 15-month suspension for doping ended in April. When Sharapova returned to the WTA Tour, Halep, 25, was among players who opted not to accept the icon with open arms.

Sharapova received a handful of wild-card entries into various tournaments, a questionable decision considering she had no official ranking. (Halep entered the world top ten in January 2014 and hasn't left.)

"For the kids, for the young players, it is not OK to help with a wild-card the player that was banned for doping," Halep said before the Porsche Grand Prix, Sharapova's first event back. "It is not about Maria Sharapova here, but it is about all the players that are found doped.

"I cannot support what the tournament director did, but also I cannot judge."

Alize Cornet and Aga Radwanska were among other players who openly opposed Sharapova's wild-card status.

After Roland Garros chose not to extend a wild card to Sharapova, she entered Wimbledon's qualifying draw but had to pull out of due to injury. The U.S. Open announced last week that Sharapova would be given a bid to her first major since the 2016 Australian Open. The 2006 U.S. Open champion was granted a spot in the 128-competitor field, but unseeded, she could find herself randomly placed anywhere.

As fate would have it, Sharapova drew ...Halep, the No. 2 seed.

"Of course I was a little bit like, how is this possible again?" Halep said Saturday.

"The tournament decided, so they can do anything they want. It is not my position to talk about this. She's coming back. She's strong enough to come back, in my opinion. She has a lot of experience, and also many tournaments won."


As a top-ranked player, Halep was part of the pool of players who answered questions on U.S. Open Media Day Saturday. As the world No. 148, Sharapova did not have to take the podium. But the numbers speak for themselves. Sharapova is 6-0 against Halep all time, and one of those wins came at a Grand Slam final in Paris. Halep, despite her consistently high ranking, is yet to win a Grand Slam.

"I'm not thinking what Maria did or what Maria does and how is the situation," Halep says. "I'm just thinking about myself. I just really want to go there and play my best tennis. It's not going to be easy, because, like I said, I lost against her a few times, so this is just another match, another challenge, another possibility to face her and to try to win against her. And that's it."

Oh, but Halep knows that's not it. She's been working her tail off for the past half-decade trying to finally break through and win a Grand Slam and get to No. 1 in the world. She has the chance to do both in Queens.

But as luck would have it, Halep draws the toughest of the 96 unseeded players in the first round. Most people won't be surprised if Halep wins the whole tournament, but no one will be surprised if she bows out to Sharapova Monday night.

Considering Halep has already talked trash about Sharapova as a wild card, it is time to back that up at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Welcome back to primetime at the U.S. Open.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.

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