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SHARAPOVA BEATS TRICKY FIRST OPPONENT

2015-5-26


PARIS, France - It was probably one of the toughest first round opponents of the tournament - five-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, former No.15 - but Maria Sharapova was just too tough for Kaia Kanepi on Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday afternoon, holding the Estonian off in a close two-setter.

After a routine first set, Sharapova faced far more resistance in the second set as Kanepi wouldn't let up, the two going toe-to-toe through 4-all, the Estonian even bringing up 0-30 in that game, threatening to break and serve for the set. But the No.3-seeded Russian crushed those hopes and won, 6-2, 6-4.

Sharapova has been under the weather coming into Roland Garros - how did she fight through it?

"I'm getting over it, and hopefully it will pass by soon," Sharapova said. "But obviously it was such a big occasion for me to be back out on center court, and I had a tough opponent ahead of me. And the conditions were pretty difficult as well. So I knew it wasn't just going to depend on the tennis today.

"Overall I'm just happy I got through it and have a day off tomorrow - I should be better by then."

The five-time Grand Slam winner was asked whether there were any doubts she would take the court.

"I mean, unless I'm in my coffin, I'm going to be out there," she replied to laughter.

The last time Sharapova came to Paris as the defending champion, in 2013, she made it all the way to the final before falling to a red-hot Serena Williams. How does it feel to start another title defense?

"Every time is different," she commented. "I think you always look back at all the different memories that you've created over the years, and I've obviously had many great ones and many tough ones.

"I always love coming back the first few days when the tournament is just getting going and you only see the staff around," Sharapova continued. "I think that's always quite special, a little bit eerie, and there's no one really there and you've able to re-live your special moment in your mind a little bit."

Awaiting Sharapova in the second round is Vitalia Diatchenko, who battled back from a set down to beat Stefanie Voegele earlier in the day, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, and equal the best Grand Slam performance of her career - she reached the second round right here back in 2009, falling to then-No.1 Dinara Safina.

Sharapova and Diatchenko will be playing against each other for the first time.

"I got to know her during Fed Cup this year," Sharapova said. "That was really the first time we spent together. I didn't get a chance to practice with her, though. I saw her play doubles a little bit - maybe it was good because it was the first time I had really seen her strike the ball. She's a big hitter."



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