Maria Sharapova almost became the first women's top seed in French Open history to lose in the opening round on Wednesday as Rafael Nadal showed her the way to master a Roland Garros sandstorm.
As a vicious swirling wind, which turned the famous claycourts here into a dustbowl, replaced the torrential downpours of the previous day, Russian golden girl Sharapova toiled for two and a half hours before squeezing past teenage compatriot, and world number 104, Evgeniya Rodina 6-1, 3-6, 8-6.
Sharapova, who needs a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, served up 17 double faults and twice had to serve to stay in the match. Sharapova will take on American qualifier Bethanie Mattek for a place in the last 32.
Fruitful win for Nadal
Triple men's champion Nadal comfortably extended his perfect Roland Garros record as he took a step closer to emulating Bjorn Borg as the only four-in-a-row winner. The 21-year-old Spaniard notched up his 22nd win in 22 matches and his 109th win in his last 111 claycourt career outings with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 opening round victory over Brazilian qualifier Thomaz Bellucci.
The second seed, who has defeated Roger Federer in the last two finals, will now face French qualifier Nicolas Devilder for a place in the last 32.
Djokovic moves ahead
<b1>Third seed Novak Djokovic, the Australian Open champion, wasted no time in reaching the third round with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 win over Miguel-Angel Jaen of Spain. Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 champion and 23rd seed, was a first round casualty when he pulled out injured against Brazil's Marcos Daniel.
The Spaniard, who had never lost his opener in his eight previous visits, won the first set 7-6 (7/5) and was 2-2 in the second when he called it quits with a thigh injury. Australia's 25th seed Lleyton Hewitt showed no signs of his recent hip injury when he brushed aside France's Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the second round. The former world No. 1 will face America's Mardy Fish for a place in the last 32.
In the women's draw, Russian sixth seen Anna Chakvetadze beat Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 and next faces Kaia Kanepi. However, French ninth seed Marion Bartoli, last year's Wimbledon runner-up, was knocked out in the first round by Australia's Casey Dellacqua 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-2.