Struggling Sharapova advances to 2nd round

Maria Sharapova struggled with her serve in the wind at the French Open and barely managed to beat Evgeniya Rodina 6-1, 3-6, 8-6 in the first round.

updated: June 02, 2008 18:21 IST
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When the ball was in play, Maria Sharapova at least was able to make something happen.

The top-seeded Russian struggled with her serve in the wind at the French Open and barely managed to beat 19-year-old Evgeniya Rodina 6-1, 3-6, 8-6 on Wednesday in the first round.

Sharapova had 17 double-faults and landed just 64 percent of her first serves in the match on center court, where she is trying to complete a career Grand Slam at the clay-court major.

"I was very close to losing this match," Sharapova said. "Not many things were working for me today after the first set."

The 103rd-ranked Rodina came within two points of winning at 5-4 in the third set with the score 30-30, but Sharapova won the next two to hold.

In the fifth game of the second set, Sharapova double-faulted three times in a row. After the third, Sharapova put her hands on her hips and stared blankly.

Trailing 4-3 in the final set, Sharapova saved three break points, the last of which was set up with yet another double-fault.

Although the three-time Grand Slam champion was having trouble landing her serves, she was more consistent with her groundstrokes, often playing long rallies before hitting a winner or waiting for Rodina to make a mistake.

"I just hung in there. It was far from my best tennis today," Sharapova said. "But at the end of the day you try to learn from your mistakes."

Sharapova dominated the first set, losing only her first service game. In one stretch, she won 10 of 11 points to take a 4-1 lead.

But the Russian then double-faulted three times in the following game before finally holding.

Rodina broke Sharapova in the first game of the second set, and then held for the first time to take a 2-0 lead. She held the rest of the way and broke Sharapova again in the final game of the set.

Rodina was playing in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. She lost in the first qualifying round at this year's Australian Open.

No. 18 Francesca Schiavone also advanced, beating Jill Craybas of the United States 6-3, 6-2.

In the men's draw, No. 25 Lleyton Hewitt defeated Nicolas Mahut of France 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 and No. 21 Radek Stepanek beat Gilles Simon of France 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.

Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 French Open champion, retired with leg pains while leading Marcos Daniel of Brazil 7-6 (5), 2-2.

On Tuesday, Amelie Mauresmo took what amounted to a three-hour lunch break during her match. That was fine with her: She's used to long rain delays at major tournaments by now.

"Maybe at the beginning, when you're very young, you kind of don't know really what to do and maybe get a little bit too excited," said Mauresmo, who overcame a some shaky periods and a weather interruption to beat Olga Savchuk 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 in the first round. "But now I guess I'm doing OK."

The 22nd-seeded Mauresmo was one of only 13 people to complete a match on Tuesday at Roland Garros, where rain affected play for the third straight day.

Three-time defending champion Rafael Nadal, who was originally scheduled to play his first match on Monday, managed to play only two games against Thomaz Bellucci before rain suspended play with the score 1-1. He resumed his match on Wednesday.

Serena Williams and Ana Ivanovic were to play in the second round.