Serena triumphs in GS comeback after Sharapova, Nadal survive

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Rafael Nadal racked up his 80th French Open win, while Maria Sharapova battled back from a final-set deficit to reach the second round.
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Reuters

Russia’s Maria Sharapova in action during her French Open first-round match against the Netherlands’ Richel Hogenkamp at Roland Garros in Paris yesterday. The former two-time champion won 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

Rafael Nadal racked up his 80th French Open win, while Maria Sharapova battled back from a final-set deficit to reach the second round as Serena Williams made her eagerly-awaited — and triumphant — Roland Garros return to Grand Slam tennis yesterday.

Nadal, the 10-time champion, defeated Italian lucky loser Simone Bolelli 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (9).

World No. 1 Nadal had been two sets up but 0-3 down in the third when rain caused the tie to be suspended late on Monday.

He quickly levelled at 3-3 yesterday, saved four break points in the eighth game before saving four set points in the breaker.

The top seed eventually claimed victory on a third match point on Court Philippe Chatrier when Bolelli dumped a forehand into the net.

Nadal, bidding for an 11th title in Paris and his 17th major, next faces Argentina’s Guido Pella for a place in the last 32.

“I really suffered today but it was a good test,” said Nadal who had been in danger of dropping his first set at Roland Garros since his 2015 quarterfinal loss to Novak Djokovic.

“Simone is a very good player and he had lots of chances and was very aggressive.”

Two-time champion Sharapova survived a serious scare to claim a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp, ranked 130, in her first French Open match since 2015.

The Russian was not given a wildcard for the tournament last year, which took place shortly after her return from a 15-month doping suspension.

Sharapova, the 28th seed, faces Croatia’s Donna Vekic next.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal (right) hugs Italy’s Simone Bolelli after winning his first-round match 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (9) on Court Philippe Chatrier yesterday. The Spaniard saved four set points before sealing his 80th win at the claycourt Grand Slam. Both the matches were held over from Monday after rain interrupted play.

The 31-year-old, five-time major champion, took just 24 minutes to win the first set of a match which was delayed from Monday, but threw away a 3-1 lead in the second.

Sharapova was staring down the barrel of falling at first hurdle in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since the 2010 Australian Open when trailing 0-3 in the third, but the former world No. 1 dug deep and reeled off six straight games to edge into round two.

The Russian, who was Paris champion in 2012 and 2014, fired 35 winners in her victory on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Even the Parisian stormclouds cleared for Williams yesterday, as the new mother’s baby steps back to GS tennis became a stride into the second round.

Krystina Pliskova, who shared the Wimbledon winners’ stage with Serena back in 2010 — the Czech was junior champion as Serena won the real thing that year — played her part across the net on Court Chatrier, but there was only one star.

Dressed in skintight, all-in-one black bodysuit, broken up by a vivid scarlet belt, Serena captivated the French crowd from the start of the contest to its 7-6 (4),6-4 conclusion.

The last time she had appeared in a GS tournament was at the Australian Open in 2017, when she won it while pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia.

This time there was a little rust to shake off — she gave birth in September — and she didn’t quite move as when at her best. But all the same Serena was too strong, too good, simply too Serena for her world 70-ranked opponent.

Third seed and 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza defeated 2009 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 7-6 (0), 6-2.

Spain’s Muguruza next faces French wildcard Fiona Ferro, ranked 257, for a place in the last 32.

Third seed Marin Cilic reached the second round with a 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (4) win over Australia’s James Duckworth.

Wimbledon and Australian Open runner-up Cilic, 29, fired 47 winners and 13 aces past the 1,072nd-ranked Duckworth who was playing his first match since the 2017 Australian Open.

Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov eased to a 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Australian John Millman in his first ever main-draw French Open match.

The 19-year-old, who lost in Roland Garros qualifying last year but is now the 24th seed, will next take on German world No. 70 Maximilian Marterer for a place in the last 32.

“The last couple of weeks I’ve been playing unbelievable on this surface,” said Shapovalov, the youngest player to break into the world’s top 30 since 2005.

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