Sharapova struggles but advances at French Open

Maria Sharapova struggled again in her Grand Slam tournament comeback at the French Open, needing three sets and a few extra games to reach the third round with a 6-2, 1-6, 8-6 victory over 11th-seeded Nadia Petrova on Wednesday.

Maria Sharapova beat Nadia Petrova 6-2

PARIS — Maria Sharapova struggled again in her Grand Slam tournament comeback at the French Open, needing three sets and a few extra games to reach the third round with a 6-2, 1-6, 8-6 victory over 11th-seeded Nadia Petrova on Wednesday.

Again playing with tape on her troublesome right shoulder, the unseeded Sharapova hung on to join top-seeded Dinara Safina and defending champion Ana Ivanovic in the next round.

“Obviously I am spending a little bit more time out there than I want to, but I think I’m learning so many new things, as well,” Sharapova said. “I think this was a great match where I had to fight my way through many, many challenges. And I did.”

On the men’s side, four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal and third-seeded Andy Murray advanced to the third round, but two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin and Fabrice Santoro each lost in their final French Open.

In first-round women’s doubles action, Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., and partner Liga Dekmeijere of Latvia fell 6-3, 6-1 to No. 9 Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan and Peng Shuai of China.

Sharapova, a three-time Grand Slam champion who has slipped to No. 102 in the rankings because of her injury layoff, won five straight games to close out the first set.

Trailing 4-2 in the deciding set, she broke Petrova to get back on serve at 4-4, and then saved two break points to take a 5-4 lead. She saved another break point while serving at 6-6.

“I got off to a really good start,” Sharapova said. “I kind of started stumbling away. Things went in the wrong direction. I was just glad I could pick myself up and keep fighting and do the right things, and end the match with a win.”

Sharapova is making her first Grand Slam appearance in almost a year after missing both the U.S. Open and the Australian Open because of her shoulder injury. She had surgery in October.

Safina easily beat 18-year-old Russian qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko 6-1, 6-1, and Ivanovic defeated Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand 6-1, 6-2.

No. 9 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus also made it through, while No. 21 Alize Cornet of France reached the second round. No. 15 Zheng Jie of China lost. Venus Williams lost the first set to Lucie Safarova 7-6 (5) before play was suspended because of darkness.

Nadal, who is trying to become the first player to win five straight French Open titles, stretched his French Open record to 30-0 by beating Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

The top-seeded Spaniard has never lost at Roland Garros, and his 30th straight win on the tournament’s red clay gives him the record for most consecutive wins.

“So what?” Nadal said of his accomplishment. “(I’m) happy for the record, but in the end happy for the result.”

Murray defeated Potito Starace of Italy 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. The Briton trailed 5-1 in the third set but broke Starace three straight times to win.

“On clay, there’s always time for you to get sort of back into the match and find your game, even if you’re struggling,” Murray said.

No. 7 Gilles Simon of France, No. 8 Fernando Verdasco of Spain, No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile and No. 13 Marin Cilic of Croatia also advanced.

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