World number two Maria Sharapova could not hide her relief after avoiding a major upset at the French Open as she came from a set down to defeat fellow Russian Evgenia Linetskaya.
The 18-year-old, who is the second seed at Roland Garros, needed two hours and 26 minutes to book her place in the second round by defeating her opponent 6-7 (3-7) 6-2 6-4.
Sharapova reached the quarter-finals at the French Open last year and has won in Tokyo and Doha in 2005, but she looked to be in serious trouble when Linetskaya led 3-1 in the final set.
However, the Wimbledon champion battled back to secure her spot in the next round.
“This was a tough clash but this is the sort of match I play for,” said Sharapova.
“It would have been great for me to win in one hour. At some point I thought I would lose but then I fought back and won. This is the type of match that I am working and playing for.”
Asked whether she feels capable of winning her second Grand Slam title, Sharapova remained cautious, adding: “I tend not to think about what I have done before the tournament nor making any bets about my potential. All I am doing is taking match after match and concentrating on my next opponent.”
Third seed and French favourite Amelie Mauresmo cruised into the second round by thrashing Australian Evie Dominikovic 6-2 6-1.
“I am very happy about the way I played today, I managed to develop my game and prevent her from playing hers,” said Mauresmo.
Earlier today 2003 champion Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium triumphed over Spain’s Conchita Martinez after a three-set battle.
Having had most of her 2004 campaign ruined by glandular fever the 23-year-old Belgian, who is the 10th seed in Paris, has regained some of her confidence after winning three clay court events in Charleston, Warsaw and Berlin this year.
And she was happy to claim a 6-0 4-6 6-4 win in two hours and 16 minutes against Martinez.
“It was a strange match for me,” said Henin-Hardenne.
“The first set was probably one of the best I’ve played this season. I was very nervous this morning and maybe I lacked concentration in the second set. But I managed to pick myself up despite the stress and I fought back.”
Henin-Hardenne, who was eliminated in the second round last year, admitted her illness has changed her forever.
“I am never going to be the same again and I don’t want to compare myself any more with what I was before I got ill,” she added.
“I feel much better on court than last year, I have won a few tournaments on clay recently and that boosted my confidence. But I need to win more matches. I have to be stronger and I am sure I can. You will see in the next few days.”
In other matches, sixth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia defeated Frenchwoman Mathilde Johansson 6-1 6-1 while fellow Russian Elena Bovina, who is the 12th seed, ousted Venezuelan Maria Vento-Kabchi 6-0 6-3.
Spaniard Nuria Llagostera Vives shocked 23rd seed Ai Sugiyama of Japan 6-3 4-6 6-4 in a rare upset today.