Serve Nearly Sinks Sharapova
PARIS - 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 Wednesday in the first round. Fifth-seeded Serena Williams, the only former champion in the women's field, won the final four games to defeat Mathilde Johansson of France 6-2, 7-5 and advance to the third 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 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. "In two days I only practiced 20 minutes," said Nadal, adding the windy conditions were tough. "Difficult to go to the court and have a good rhythm. And first match, always you are nervous." 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 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. "It's always good to have an easy match," the Australian Open champion said. Sharapova landed only 64 percent of her first serves in the match on center court, where she is trying to complete a career Grand Slam at the clay-court major. "I was very close to losing this match," Sharapova said. "Not many things were working for me today after the first set." "This is life," Rodina said with a laugh. "I could have won, but it's OK." Rain delays over the first three days of the tournament gave way to strong wind on Day 4, when organizers 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. Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 French Open champion, retired with leg pains while leading Marcos Daniel of Brazil 7-6 (5), 2-2.