13
Mar
11

A rusty Sharapova squeaks thru, but Li Na and Kuznetsova are out.

In the last match of the night, No.16 seed Maria Sharapova made a winning return to the tour with a two-hour, 57-minute win under the lights against feisty Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues, missing out on two match points leading 75 65 but eventually finishing the match off in the third set, 75 67(3) 61. “I hadn’t played in a long time, and in the first set there were certain points where I was confused whether I should be more patient or go for it a little more,” Sharapova said. “As I started playing more, I started to get a better feel for her game and the way I was playing. I had chances to win in the second set but maybe played a little too risky; but I did a good job of stepping up in the third.” Sharapova was playing her first match in five weeks after struggles with a viral illness. “The last few weeks I was really eager to play. I had a long off-season, played a couple of tournaments, and Australia was my last one. It was unfortunate I couldn’t play the two or three tournaments starting in Paris. I got sick starting in Paris and had to fly home; but that’s just the way it goes.”

Li Na the No.7 seed, was the first of the seeds to go, falling to 0-3 since her famous Australian Open showing with a 46 63 63 loss to fellow Chinese Peng Shuai. After the two split sets, Chinese No.2 Peng completely pulled away in the third, racing to a 4-1 lead and closing out Chinese No.1 Li four games later.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded No.11, was the next to go, squandering a set point in the first set and five set points in the second set during a 76(4) 76(7) loss to young American wildcard Christina McHale. McHale’s win over the No.13-ranked Kuznetsova was her first completed win over a Top 50 player (her best previous completed victory was over a No.59-ranked Peng). “It’s definitely my biggest win. I’m so excited right now,” McHale beamed. “When I was down in the second set tie-break, I just tried to keep playing the way I was playing. When that last shot finally missed, I couldn’t believe it.”

Next up for McHale is No.18 seed Nadia Petrova, who battled past Sofia Arvidsson in a tight two-setter, 64 76(3). “Petrova is one of the top players. She plays really well,” McHale said. “I’m just taking it one match at a time.”

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