Maria Sharapova came perilously close to an unwanted place in the record books yesterday when the sun finally shone at Roland Garros.
The Russian, seeking to complete her full set of grand slams in Paris, was two points away from defeat during her first-round match against unheralded Evgeniya Rodina, but finally prevailed after a two hour, 28 minute tussle on Court Philippe Chatrier.
No women’s top seed has bowed out at the first hurdle in Paris since the sport turned professional in 1968, and for spells it looked like Rodina, in her first match in a slam, and the blustery conditions would catch her out.
“I just hung in there,” Sharapova said in a courtside interview after her 6-1, 3-6, 8-6 victory.
“It was far from my best tennis today but you try to learn from your mistakes. Not many things were working for me today,” she said.
Sharapova will take on US qualifier Bethanie Mattek for a place in
the last 32.
French ninth seed Marion Bartoli was not so lucky and was knocked out 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 by Australian Casey Dellacqua.
Last year’s Wimbledon finalist was 6-5 up when rain ended play on Tuesday but she could not find her pace on Wednesday, bowing out after two hours and two minutes.
Dellacqua will next face another Frenchwoman, Nathalie Dechy, for a place in the third round.
Russian seventh seed Elena Dementieva, whose infamously flaky serve was tested to the full in the stiff breeze, overcame the loss of a first set tiebreak before crushing Russian compatriot Vera Dushevina 6-7, 6-0, 6-2.
Dementieva will face Poland’s Marta Domachowska in the second round.
Other winners yesterday included Taiwanese-American Vania King who beat Violette Huck of France 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan who beat Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 6-2, 7-5 and Sanda Mamic of Croatia who defeated Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-3. Italian No. 18 seed Francesca Schiavone was another winner, downing Jill Craybas of the US 6-3, 6-2
In the Men’s tournament Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 champion and 23rd seed, was a first round casualty when he pulled out injured against Brazil’s Marcos Daniel.
The Spaniard, who had never lost his opener in his eight previous visits, won the first set 7-6 (7/5) and was 2-2 in the second when he called it quits with a thigh injury.
If cutting short his French Open campaign was not bad enough, Ferrero felt the injury setback would almost certainly put him out of the running for a place at the Beijing Olympics in August.
“[The Olympics] was one of my objectives, but I think it’s going to be impossible now but there is nothing I can do about it,” Ferrero said.
“For the grass season I have a bit of time ahead of me to have a rest but it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “It’s not a serious injury, but it keeps coming back, and I can’t play my best tennis. I’ll try and do my best and if it doesn’t work out well, too bad.”
Ferrero’s misfortune finally allowed Daniel to break his first-round grand slam jinx at his eighth attempt.
Daniel, the world 79, will take on Austria’s Jurgen Melzer for a place in the last 32.
Safely through was Spanish fifth seed David Ferrer who enjoyed a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Belgium’s Steve Darcis and will take on French veteran Fabrice Santoro for a place in the last 32.
Former world No. 1 Marat Safin recovered from a shaky start to reach the second round with a 6-7, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2, victory over Monaco’s Jean-Rene Lisnard.