French Open 2018: Sharapova saves match against Vekic
Maria Sharapova battled her game, and the competition, to come out as the winner at the French Open on Thursday.
The 30th seed had errors from her serve along with Donna Vekic playing a strong amount of tennis, but the pressure got to the 21-year-old to gave the former champion a 7-5, 6-4 win on Court One at Roland Garros.
The Croatian earned her first match against the Russian in what she hoped would be a chance to attack another top player.
She gave Garbine Muguruza a tough time in Madrid two weeks ago on clay and would try to get a similar if better result.
The former No.1 hasn’t had a solid return back to Roland Garros going three sets against Richel Hogenkamp who gave her a lot to deal with. The 21-year-old would hope that her record on the surface would spell in the shape of an upset.
She began her match with Sharapova earning a break in the opening game. The Russian responded with a break before she got herself on track with a service hold in the third.
The world No. 30 continued to lead the way with Vekic answering the call on serve as well. The Croatian attempted to break Sharapova a second time, but unforced errors on the return made that impossible.
It led to the former world number one to a 5-3 lead after a ball landing long of the line on Vekic’s serve handed a second break over.
Sharapova fired an ace in the ninth but watched Vekic get two break back points. It gave her a fourth win as the Russian was out of sorts on serve to get it done and dusted.
The Croatian had the door open to force the set deeper and kept it possible saving the game to force deuce. They went five breaks with Vekic keeping the pressure on Sharapova who couldn’t counter the pace that lasted almost nine minutes.
Despite having to play more tennis, the Russian kept her eyes on the prize putting down her first serve to love on Vekic with the hope of holding her back once more.
The Croatian began the 12th double faulting but nailing the point on her second serve. Just when it looked as if she had herself into a tiebreak, another double fault gave Sharapova a countering opportunity.
She landed a winner for a second set point on a big forehand that Vekic didn’t hit right ending things in 61 minutes.
Sharapova remained firm to open the second set with a growing lead taking the opening pair of games. She was locked in a competitive third game where Vekic broke back in the third to get herself into a groove.
It turned out not to be the case as the Russian dictated out a 4-1 run consolidating the serve in the fifth. Vekic cut the margin in half with a service hold in the sixth, but failed to counter the early troubles of her opponent. Sharapova had a double fault in play but recovered slowly to get the 5-2 stance.
Vekic served to stay in the match with some big responses in the rallies with Sharapova only to be forced to deuce.
She fired an ace for the AD point that resulted in a third win, but more had to be done to delay the inevitable. The Croatian kept her cool against Sharapova’s second try at the match gaining a lead on the score before winning it on an error by the Russian.
One game stood between herself and getting a third set to get into action. Sharapova did everything possible to nail down the match win playing the returns but a shot into the net forced deuce for Vekic.
Despite getting the opportunities, the 21-year-old couldn’t get strong on the first serve, but battled in the rallies with the second to stay alive. The fifth break saw the end come for the Russian who held on her fifth match point attempt to end a nearly two-hour match.
Sharapova finished with a 52 percent first serve and 52 percent of points won on the second serve.
She had six double faults and 31 unforced errors that was the clear reason for her troubles on court. She’ll have to figure all that out when the difficulty reaches a high point going against Karolina Pliskova on Saturday.