COMING OFF THE biggest clay-court title of her career, Maria Sharapova rolled into the second round of the French Open by beating Mirjana Lucic of Croatia 6-3, 6-0 today.
The seventh-seeded Russian won the Italian Open before coming to Roland Garros to seek the only Grand Slam title she has never won.
“If you feel pressure, it’s part of the business. It’s part of the sport,” Sharapova said of the expectations placed on her.
“That means there’s something on the line. That means you want it bad. It’s how you handle it.
“Without pressure, what’s the sport about? It’s how you really handle the situation.”
Also advancing to the second round were Australian Open finalists Andy Murray and Li Na. Later today, five-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal is to face John Isner, while Kim Clijsters is also scheduled to be in action.
Against Lucic on centre court, Sharapova was not troubled. She won nine straight games to finish the match and never faced a break point.
Sharapova, who will face French wild card Caroline Garcia, won the title at Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008.
The sixth-seeded Li, who became the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam final, dominated at times and struggled at times in her 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3 win over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic.
Li trailed 3-1 in the first set, but then won 10 of the next 12 games to lead 5-2 in the second before her opponent forced the tiebreaker. She held two match points in the tiebreaker, but then lost four straight points.
In the third, Li jumped out to a 4-0 lead and held on to win.
But first on Court Philippe Chatrier, an emotional Virginie Razzano played despite the death of her fiance eight days ago. The Frenchwoman, playing with a black ribbon on her shirt, lost to 24th-seeded Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia 6-3, 6-1.
“I felt a lot of emotion, a lot of pain on court today,” Razzano said. “The pain is permanent within me. It’s very hard. But it felt good to be surrounded by so many people and to be here.
“I tried to pay tribute to Stephane today. It was almost a ‘mission impossible,’ but I did my best.”
Razzano’s fiance and coach Stephane Vidal died on May 16 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor nine years ago. He was 32.
The 28-year-old Razzano said last week that she asked Vidal before he died if she should play at Roland Garros and he said, “Yes, you need to play.”
Gajdosova, who recently split from her husband Sam Groth, said she offered condolences and some words of encouragement when they met at the net.
“I just told her that I’m sorry for her loss, and what she did was pretty much incredible,” Gajdosova said. “She stood on the court and held her head up high and tried her best. I told her I was sorry and I wished her all the best for the future.”
Razzano will also play in the doubles tournament with partner Alize Cornet.
Former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic also lost. The 20th-seeded Serb, who won the title at Roland Garros in 2008, fell to Johanna Larsson of Sweden 7-6 (3), 0-6, 6-2.
Murray made it through to the second round by beating French qualifier Eric Prodon 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.
The fourth-seeded Briton went on a four-match winless run after losing the Australian Open final, but he reached the semifinals at clay-court warmups in Monte Carlo and Rome.
No. 20 Florian Mayer of Germany and No. 21 Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine also advanced.