Ana Ivanovic, who crumbled to defeat in last year’s Roland Garros final, took a first nervous step towards erasing that heartbreaking memory yesterday when she reached the French Open second round.
The second seed saw off Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson 6-2, 7-5 and will now face the Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova for a place in the third round.
Howver, another Czech was already packing her bags after 15th seed Nicole Vaidisova, a semi-finalist in 2006, slumped to a straight sets defeat to compatriot, and best friend, Iveta Benesova.
World No. 2 Ivanovic became Serbia’s first Grand Slam finalist in Paris last year beating Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova before she fell to pieces in the final against Justine Henin, going down 6-1, 6-2.
Since then she has also finished runner-up to Sharapova at the Australian Open.
But it wasn’t 20-year-old Ivanovic’s most convincing display yesterday.
After easing through the first set, she then had to save break points in the fifth, seventh and ninth games of the second before seeing off the 24-year-old Swede whom she had also defeated at the same stage here last year.
“If I reach the final again I’ll perform a lot better than I did last year. That was a great experience and I don’t regret it,” said Ivanovic whose build-up to Paris wasn’t helped by a shock first round defeat in Rome where she was top seed.
“This year I’m in a different position to last year. Then I had only just broken into the world top 10 and there was less pressure. Now I am No. 2 in the world so I have more expectations,” she said.
“I think I’m doing a good job. It’s been a little tough the last few weeks but I feel as if I have my game back,” Ivanovic said.
Vaidisova’s 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 defeat was her sixth in a row this year leaving her without a win since the first round in Dubai three months ago.
The 19-year-old has recently drafted in Tim Henman’s former coach David Felgate to replace Alex Kodat, her stepfather who had been beside her since she was six years old.
Vaidisova has also been romantically linked with fellow Czech Radek Stepanek, who this time last year was engaged to Martina Hingis.
But she refused to blame all the upheavals for her slump.
“I’m happy with the decisions I took. They are not distracting me,” the former world No. 7 said.
Also yesterday, Anastasiya Yakimova of Belarus beat Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei 6-7 (4/7), 7-5, 6-4.
Meanwhile, Argentinian sixth seed David Nalbandian, widely regarded as one of the few players capable of shattering triple champion Rafael Nadal’s pursuit of a fourth successive title, saw off compatriot Carlos Berlocq 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.
Nalbandian, a semi-finalist in 2004 and 2006, holds a 2-0 career record over Nadal and could meet the Spaniard in the quarter-finals.
He will face French wildcard Jeremy Chardy for a place in the third round.
“I can play better but to win in three sets is good enough,” Nalbandian said.
In another match yesterday, Juan Martin del Potro beat Josselin Ouanna of France 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.