Top seed Maria Sharapova admitted she only had herself to blame as she came close to becoming the first high-profile casualty in this year’s French Open.
Playing in what she described as “desert” conditions on Philippe Chatrier court today, the new world number one squeezed past fellow Russian Evgeniya Rodina, who was playing in her first grand slam event, 6-1 3-6 8-6 in an epic match that lasted almost two and a half hours.
Hampered by a misfiring serve, a game opponent smelling an upset and a severe wind that blew the Parisian clay into her face, Sharapova had to save three break points when 4-3 down in the third set.
She then broke Rodina at the second attempt to go 7-6 ahead, before claiming victory on her first match point when the tiring 19-year-old sent a backhand wide.
Sharapova, who needs the Roland Garros title to complete a grand slam of major wins, admitted things had gone far from smoothly.
Asked what had been her problem against Rodina, she said: “Me, myself and I.
“I won the first set pretty comfortably and I kind of went downhill after that. I was quite tentative, giving her opportunities to take control of the points.
“I was trying to maybe be somebody that I’m not and that can get you in trouble. When you are out there playing under-14 tennis and pushing balls, you create your own problems.
“At the end of the day, you are fortunate to get through the match, fortunate you’re giving yourself another opportunity to get better.
“Because realistically, I don’t know if there’s any way down from here.”
Sharapova served 17 double faults in the match as the pressure began to tell, although her high ball toss in the wind would not have helped.
And she bemoaned the conditions she ended up playing in.
“It’s dry and you’ve got sand blowing in your face,” said the three-time major winner, who was playing a teenager ranked 104 in the world.
“So you think it’s a hardcourt but then you feel like you’re in a desert.
“On one side you don’t have a lot of clay, but then you go to the other side where the wind is blowing and you have a lot of sand.
“Apart from eating and breathing sand, it was great. But they were bad for her as well.”
Sharapova added: “I don’t think I’ll be able to get away with not playing well and not serving well against a different opponent or somebody that has more experience, a top player.
“But I’ll work on it and it will be better. You just try to erase it.”
Sharapova will play Bethanie Mattek, an American qualifier, in round two.
In another all-Russian first-round match, seventh seed Elena Dementieva recovered from losing the first set to defeat Vera Dushevina 6-7 (6/8) 6-0 6-2 on Court Two.
The highest seed to fall today was Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli (9), the 2007 Wimbledon finalist slipping to a 6-7 (4/7) 6-3 6-2 defeat by Australia’s Casey Dellacqua.
Elsewhere, Italian duo Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone, seeded 26 and 28 respectively, both won 6-3 6-2, with Tatiana Perebiynis and Jill Craybas their victims.
Slovenia’s Katarina Srebotnik, the 27th seed, beat Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-4 6-2 and unseeded Croatian Sanda Mamic saw off Michaella Krajicek in straight sets.
Akgul Amanmuradova, Vania King, Marina Erakovic, Olga Govortsova, Magdalena Rybarikova and Marta Domachowska also progressed at Roland Garros.