Ivanovic battles through

PARIS: Defending champion Ana Ivanovic survived a 30-degree sweatshop to reach the French Open second round on Sunday as the sweltering sun shone on Grand Slam old-stagers Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin.

Ivanovic clinched a 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 win over Italy’s World No 44 Sara Errani with the eighth-seeded Serbian showing few signs of the recent knee injury which kept her out of the Madrid Open.

Meanwhile, Hewitt and Safin, both former world number ones and with two Grand Slam titles each, began their campaigns with victories. Hewitt survived a world record 55-ace barrage from giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic to claim a 6-7 (1/7), 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 6-3 win which consumed almost four hours.

It was the fifth time in his career that the 28-year-old Australian, twice a quarter-finalist in Paris, had come back from a two-set deficit. Karlovic’s ace-count was a world record, beating the previous best of 51 he shared with Sweden’s Joachim Johansson when both men reached the mark at Wimbledon in 2005; both still lost.

Hewitt, now ranked 50 and who underwent hip surgery in August last year, will face Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan for a place in the third round where four-time champion Rafael Nadal is a likely opponent.

Safin, a semi-finalist in 2002 and playing his 11th and last French Open before retiring, eased past French wildcard Alexandre Sidorenko 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Fellow seeded players Fernando Verdasco, the eighth seed, Croatia’s Marin Cilic, the 13th seed, as well as number 31 Nicolas Almagro also made the last 64. China’s Li Na, the women’s 25th seed, had the honour of becoming the first player to reach the second round thanks to a 6-4, 6-2 win over Poland’s Marta Domachowska.

Li was quickly joined in the second round by promising Russian 17-year-old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 27th seed, who eased past Romania’s Ioana Raluca Olaru 6-3, 6-2. Eighteen-year-old Russian qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko, the World No 151, reduced Mathilde Johansson, one of a record 19 Frenchwomen in the draw, to a tearful wreck after a three-hour 2-6, 6-2, 10-8 win.