Sharapova survives Rodina scare

Paris, May 28:

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, hitting 17 double-faults and barely managing to defeat 103rd-ranked Evgeniya Rodina 6-1, 3-6, 8-6 on Wednesday in the first round.

Rafael Nadal had an easier time in his opener, improving to 22-0 for his career at Roland Garros by defeating Thomaz Bellucci 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 in a rain-interrupted match.

After rain suspended play on Tuesday with the score at 1-1, Nadal was broken twice in the first set Wednesday, including while serving for the set at 5-3 before eventually winning.

Nadal, seeded No 2 behind Roger Federer, is trying to become the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1978-81 to win the clay-court Grand Slam tournament four years in a row. His next opponent is another qualifier, Nicolas Devilder of France.

Third-seeded Novak Djokovic moved into the third round by beating Miguel Angel Lopez Jaen of Spain 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. “It’s always good to have an easy match,” the Australian Open champion said.

Rain delays over the first three days of the tournament gave way to strong wind on Day 4, when organisers hoped to cut through a huge backlog of matches. Second-seeded Ana Ivanovic advanced to the third round. Last year’s French Open finalist easily beat Lucie Safarova 6-1, 6-2.

No 14 Agnieszka Radwanska and No 30 Caroline Wozniacki also reached the third round. No 9 Marion Bartoli, who reached last year’s Wimbledon final, was upset by Casey Dellacqua 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2 in the first round. But No 7 Elena Dementieva, No 6 Anna Chakvetadze, No 11 Vera Zvonareva and No 18 Francesca Schiavone all advanced to the second round.

In the men’s draw, No 25 Lleyton Hewitt defeated Nicolas Mahut of France 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 and No 5 David Ferrer beat Steve Darcis 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. No 15 Mikhail Youzhny, No 21 Radek Stepanek, No 26 Jarkko Nieminen and No 30 Dmitry Tursunov also advanced, while No 20 Ivo Karlovic lost. Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 French Open champion, retired with leg pains while leading Marcos Daniel of Brazil 7-6 (5), 2-2.