Sharapova shines,  Nishikori crashes

Paris: Maria Sharapova reached the French Open second round on Monday at a damp and chilly Roland Garros as Japanese hope Kei Nishikori became the tournament’s first major casualty.Sharapova, seeded seven and the 2012 champion, needed just over an hour to beat fellow Russian, Ksenia Pervak, the world’s 156th-ranked player, 6-1, 6-2.The 27-year-old, who lost last year’s final to Serena Williams, looked comfortable under the cloudy conditions on the Philippe Chatrier court, breaking her opponent five times.

Sharapova will next face Bulgaria’s 2010 Wimbledon semi-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova.“First matches at Grand Slams are always tough, no matter how prepared you are, no matter how many matches you’ve played,” said Sharapova, now 13-1 on clay in 2014 with titles in Stuttgart and Madrid.

“There is always a bit more tension in that type of Grand Slam atmosphere. It’s certainly more special, especially when you walk out on court.” Japanese ninth seed Nishikori was left feeling as miserable as the Paris weather as he crashed out in the first round, clearly still suffering from his recent back injury. Nishikori, 24, and coached by 1989 champion Michael Chang, was the first Japanese man in 75 years to make the fourth round in Paris in 2013.

But on Monday, there was never any sign that he would repeat that feat as he went down 7-6 (7/4), 6-1, 6-2 to Slovakia’s Martin Klizan. Nishikori won the Barcelona claycourt title last month but then had to quit the Madrid Masters final against Rafael Nadal with a back injury that also forced him out of the Rome Masters.

The world number 10 looked distinctly half-fit on Court 1 where he was broken 10 times, hit 10 double faults and committed 40 unforced errors Left-handed Klizan, 24, one of six former junior champions in the main draw, goes on to face Robin Haase of the Netherlands. After rain delayed the start of Monday’s programme by more than an hour, play was halted again barely two hours later at 12:30 GMT when the heavens reopened.

But there was still time for Dominika Cibulkova, the Slovak ninth seed, Italian 12th seed Flavia Pennetta and German 16th seed Sabine Lisicki to progress.Nadal court ‘snub’: Meanwhile, defending champion Nadal remained at the centre of a French Open scheduling row on Monday.

Nadal, who has a phenomenal record of eight titles, 59 match wins and just one loss in Paris, had his opening match against US wildcard Robby Ginepri, the world number 279, shifted out to Suzanne Lenglen court. However, Roland Garros’s showpiece Philippe Chatrier court will stage title rival Novak Djokovic’s match against Joao Sousa and Stan Wawrinka’s clash against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Nadal claimed at the weekend that he found conditions on Chatrier to be different this year.“I think they made the court new, so it’s like the clay gets a little bit more fixed. It was moving around a little bit too much and some small stones make the movement a little bit more difficult,” said Nadal.

“But probably they will be ready for the tournament now. They can fix it. They are specialists, no?” However, his complaints stunned ground staff at Roland Garros. “I was surprised because nobody else had complained about Chatrier,” Gerard Tiquet, the man in charge of the courts for 22 years, told L’Equipe newspaper.

A new surface of clay has been laid on the court which should improve day by day, added Tiquet, who said he had some sympathy with the Spaniard.“I understand his fears. Nadal needs to anchor his feet on the clay. I also believe he is worried about a repeat of the problems he had with the blue clay in Madrid in 2012. The clay there was slippy and grainy.”

Remy Azemar, the assistant referee, insisted that schedulers had to balance the needs of the players as well as the fans.“There was a discussion. We wanted to have a balance with Nadal on one court and Djokovic on the other,” he said.“Also, Monday is club presidents day and most of them will be on Suzanne Lenglen. We want to make sure they have a good day with two French players (Virginie Razzano and Gilles Simon) also scheduled there.”

If he gets on court, Nadal should have few problems against Ginepri who has yet to win a match on the main tour in 2014. Djokovic defeated 25-year-old Sousa, the world number 44, for the loss of just four games in the third round of the US Open in 2013.

Third seed and Australian Open champion Wawrinka, who achieved his best result in Paris in 2013 when he made the quarter-finals, has a 4-2 lead in career meetings with Garcia-Lopez. AFP

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