Sharapova, Nadal take down rivals

Sharapova, Nadal take down rivals

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Sharapova, Nadal take down rivals

Russia’s Maria Sharapova serves to Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh during the French tennis Open first round match on May 27, 2013 at Roland Garros Stadium. AFP Photo

Rafael Nadal’s bid for an historic eighth French Open title was almost spectacularly derailed on May 26 by big-hitting German Daniel Brands.

But there were no such problems for defending women’s champion Maria Sharapova who eased past Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei in just 54 minutes, surrendering only eight points on serve.

Seven-time champion Nadal dropped the opening set of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career before he prevailed 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 6-3 against a player who had lost all four of his previous matches in Paris. Brands even led 3/0 in the second set tie-breaker as he appeared poised to deliver the first defeat of a men’s champion in the opening round in tournament history. But Nadal eventually found his rhythm to steady the ship as the 25-year-old German eventually ran out of firepower.

“He was playing unbelievable. I tried to find my game and tried to resist his fantastic shots,” said Nadal, who will face Martin Klizan of Slovakia for a place in the last 32 “He played a great match and put me in a tricky situation.”

Sharapova brushed past hapless world number 42 Hsieh, 6-2, 6-1 and will next face Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard.

Sharapova, who completed a career Grand Slam in Paris in 2012, fired 25 winners to Hsieh’s eight and kept her unforced errors to just four against 24.

The Russian second seed had her match shifted to Court Suzanne Lenglen while Monfils and Berdych slugged it out on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“I wanted to finish tonight; it was a good decision to switch courts especially when I saw the guys were still playing,” she said. Sharapova was joined in the next round by three former champions; Li Na, Kuznetsova and Schiavone.