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Sharapova Survives Wild Roland Garros Opener

Maria Sharapova of Russia in action against Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands during their women’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2018. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

 

 

By Richard Pagliario

 

Spiking stress swirled around Maria Sharapova as Richel Hogenkamp reeled off her sixth straight game to seize a 3-0 lead in the final set.

 

Bouncing up and down on her toes, Sharapova slapped her left thigh exhorting herself into action.

 

A defiant Sharapova punished the ball and pained her opponent roaring through six straight games sealing a spirited 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 comeback triumph in her Roland Garros opener.

 

A dominant start gave way to a dramatic end.

 

Sharapova showed her resolve and survival skills turning her shoulders into her shots and hitting menacing drives to spark her comeback.

 

The 28th-seeded Russian will play Donna Vekic, a 6-2, 6-4 victor over Kateryna Bondarenko, in round two.

 

“You know sometimes you have to get through these types of matches where some things don’t work out,” Sharapova told Marion Bartoli in her on-court interview afterward. “I’m proud of the effort and proud of the way I came back in the third set.”

 

A topsy-turvy match featured three distinctly different acts.

 

The two-time Roland Garros champion completely dominated at the outset storming out to a 6-1, 3-1 lead leaving the 133rd-ranked Dutch qualifier looking shell shocked after just 40 minutes.

 

Hogenkamp began mixing up the pace and angle of her shots and Sharapova suffered a mid-match collapse. Hogenkamp reeled off eight of the next nine games.

 

An atrocious game from the five-time Grand Slam champion came to an ignominous end as Sharapova missed the center stripe by a few feet double faulting back the break, her second double fault of the game, and 4-all.

 

Richel Hogenkamp in action against Maria Sharapova of Russia during their women’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2018. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

A fired-up Hogenkamp backed up the break at 15 with a clenched fist as Sharapova slapped a forehand into net.

 

Down 15-30, Sharapova slid an ace down the middle, but that was her last stand in the second set.

 

The statuesque Russian’s trademark two-hander let her down. Sharapova missed successive backhand as the Hogenkamp seized her third straight break to force the decider.

 

It was a ragged end to the set for Sharapova, who was on pace for a straight-sets victory, but lost her rhythm and range committing 12 unforced errors in the second set.

 

The smash played a pivotal part in the first break of the last set.

 

Hogenkamp snapped off a smash to earn break point then gave the Russian a dose of her own medicine with a drop shot. Sharapova scrambled forward to chase it down but instead of following with a smash, she opted for the swing volley.

 

Hogenkamp read the shot, moved left and bolted a backhand pass down the line snatching the break for 2-0.

 

Pumping her fist between points and striking with vigor, the Dutch qualifier consolidated at 30—her sixth straight game—for 3-0.

 

Withstanding a humbling drop-shot return winner, Sharapova stopped her six-game slide holding for 1-3.

 

Imparting a bit more spin and height to her forehand, Sharapova dug in and played some sharper angles drawing errors from the world No. 133 to break back in the fifth game.

 

The two-time champion dodged a pair of break points in the sixth game, receiving a gift on the first when Hogenkamp smothered a forehand sitter into net that would have given her a 4-2 lead. Instead, Sharapova showed her guts going big on second serves to hold strong for 3-all.

 

Narrowing her gaze beneath her sweat-soaked blue visor, Sharapova scalded a screaming forehand down the line earning her fourth straight game as a stressed-out Hogenkamp wound up and spiked her Prince racquet to the dirt.

 

Sharapova prevailed in one of the longest exchanges of the set holding for 5-3.

 

A dejected Hogenkamp pasted a forehand into net as Sharapova completed her spirited fight back in one hour, 54 minutes.

 

“I’m so incredibly fortunate to be back in this position, to get on this court,” Sharapova said. “I have many great memories here and I wish to continue that. I love competing and I can’t wait to be back for my next match.”

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