Sharapova back at French open

PARIS: Those unmistakable shrieks punctuating point after point on Court 1 at the French Open on Monday trumpeted Maria Sharapova's return to the Grand Slam stage.

There were other ways Sharapova made her presence felt — the big groundstrokes off both wings; the tough-as-nails turnaround after a slow start; the prematch accessories of buttoned-up blue jacket and oversized white purse; the postmatch victory waves and blown kisses.

Sharapova's tennis is not yet back to her lofty standards, as one might expect after shoulder surgery in October and four singles matches in the past 10 months. The 64th-ranked Anastasiya Yakimova of Belarus is not the sort of opponent who would normally trouble a top-of-her-game Sharapova, yet there was trouble Monday.

Still, a win is a win, and Sharapova's first match at a major tournament in nearly a year ended with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Yakimova and a spot in the French Open's second round. It will take more than that performance for Sharapova to erase the uncertainty that comes with such a long layoff.

"This is the first time in my career where I can really say I don't have any expectations," the three-time major champion said. "I don't know how things are going to work out. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, how my shoulder is going to feel."

Because of her time away, Sharapova is ranked 102nd and unseeded at Roland Garros, which might help lower others' expectations, too. A year ago, after all, she was No. 1.

"If I was a mentally weak person or individual," Sharapova said, "I think I wouldn't be here today."

The pressure to produce has not affected Rafael Nadal in the least, and he extended his French Open winning streak to a record 29 matches Monday by beating Marcos Daniel of Brazil 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 in the first round.