Tennis

Sharapova digs deep in return to Roland Garros

There was the usual pre-toss skipping routine, an abundance of shrieks and the oft-seen mid-match wobble as Maria Sharapova returned to the French Open following a two-year hiatus with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 win against Richel Hogenkamp yesterday.

The former world No.1 ended up spending more time than she would have wanted on the Suzanne Lenglen Court in defeating the Dutch qualifier, but the only thing that mattered was that she was into round two.

"I really dug deep but sometimes, you need to go through these types of matches where things don't go the way you want," Sharapova said courtside. "Happy the way I came back in the third set.

"I'm so fortunate to be back in this position, I formed so many great memories here."

Sharapova, seeded 28th, missed the 2016 tournament while serving a doping ban and failed in her bid to secure a wildcard entry into last year's event.

After being given a warm welcome by the Roland Garros crowd when she arrived on court, the Russian raced to a 3-0 lead in the opening set.

She wrapped it up in just 24 minutes as she mixed her powerful game with a couple of delicate dropshots.

The five-time Grand Slam champion broke early in the second set too, only for Hogenkamp to level at 3-3.

Another trade of breaks ensued and Hogenkamp broke again in the 10th game to level the match when Sharapova netted a backhand.

Things then got much worse for Sharapova. She peppered the court with unforced errors, falling 3-0 down in the decider as Hogenkamp bagged six games in a row.

But the double French Open champion's never-say-die attitude resurfaced and she pocketed the remaining six games to set up a second-round meeting with Croatia's Donna Vekic.

Meanwhile, third seed Garbine Muguruza prevailed 7-6 (7/0), 6-2 over Svetlana Kuznetsova in a rain-disrupted match.

"It is, so to speak, (a) second-week match," Muguruza said. "But this is going to reinforce me. It was a very good first round, and the fact that I won, although it was a very difficult match, it was a match against an expert. The last matches I have played, the results were difficult.

"And I think that I feel very encouraged by this kind of a match."

In another match, Serena Williams made her eagerly awaited Roland Garros return to Grand Slam tennis last night, in a 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 win over Czech world No. 70 Kristyna Pliskova. - REUTERS

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