Maria Sharapova regains regal air after Donna Vekic win in Paris

first_imgMaria Sharapova Share on Twitter Support The Guardian The Recap: sign up for the best of the Guardian’s sport coverage Share via Email “So if I do have a chance to play on it, I will welcome it with open arms. And, if it’s another court, then it will be great.”Heather Watson has had her moments on big courts but she played her two matches here in the intimacy of Court No 3, losing in an all-round poor contest against the world No 16, Elise Mertens, who conquered her own jitters to win 6-3, 6-4.Watson’s game and serve, which delivered her nine aces in her first-round win over Océane Dodin, deserted her until the very end, when she launched a spirited but doomed fightback. She held her serve only twice in an hour and a half, served five double faults and hit 37 unforced errors. She did not need the British media – whom she this week criticised for being hard on her and Johanna Konta – to point out she had played poorly.“I had glimpses of playing well,” she said, “but I just wasn’t consistent throughout the match. And when it was important, at 4-4 [in the second], I made a few too many errors. I didn’t serve as well as I have been. I was more frustrated with myself that I was giving away so many free points.”Soon – after the doubles – she heads for the green grass of home and there is still a spring in her step. “I’m signed in to play Surbiton and then Nottingham, Birmingham, Eastbourne and Wimbledon, which is fine for me, because it’s easy playing at home,” Watson said. “I’m feeling positive and confident and I love playing on grass. I’m definitely feeling a lot more positive than I was a couple of weeks ago. I am happy with how I’m playing. I was very happy with parts but also very disappointed with other parts.”If there was a World Cup for taking positives out of a lossfrom a defeat, Watson would be in contention all the way to the final.It is a pleasure to report that Konta, who lost in the first round of the singles for the fourth time in a row, has broken her French Open duck. She and Dominic Inglot won their opening mixed doubles 6-4, 6-3 against the French pair, Fiona Ferro and Evan Furness. They played on Court No 15.In fading light on Chatrier Serena Williams – the most famous 36-year-old former champion of all time with ambitions of rewriting history – kept her fairytale comeback going when she overcame an uncertain start to outlast the Australian Ashleigh Barthy, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, in an hour and 46 minutes. “Every day is a great day for me,” she said mother of a young daughter re-entering the Tour at this level.“I lost the first set and I thought I’ve got to try harder. I’m excited to play singles or doubles [with her sister, Venus, who is out of the singles] and fight my heart out.” Share on LinkedIn Reuse this content The prospect of a third-round match against the world No 6, Karolina Pliskova, does not shake the self-belief of Maria Sharapova, 24 places below her in the rankings but still in command of her hauteur, not to mention her audience.The Russian has been through the wringer over the past couple of years but, as she progressed further into the draw on a lovely summer’s day in Paris with a tough 7-5, 6-4 win over Donna Vekic, she made it clear she was still worth equal billing with Pliskova, who started slowly and finished in a burst to beat her Czech compatriot, Lucie Safarova, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, on Court No 18.That is not exactly the back-blocks (in fact it is quite nice) but it is also not The Bullring, the tournament’s famous third arena, where Sharapova operated against an opponent ranked 50th in the world.“I quite like that court,” Sharapova said of Court No 1, which will be demolished after the tournament. Asked if she was hoping for a move to the main stage, Court Philippe Chatrier, on Saturday, given Pliskova would probably be steered in that direction, she replied, “Well, there is also Sharapova. So …”Only Sharapova could get away with that. She remains a presence in the game, flowing through Roland Garros with the determined air of a queen not quite ready for the guillotine.“It’s been a few years since I have been back on the court,” the two-times champion said, perhaps mulling over her exclusion from Roland Garros a year ago after serving her drugs ban. French Open 2018 Since you’re here… French Opencenter_img Tennis Share on WhatsApp Topics match reports Read more Heather Watson Share on Pinterest … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. 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