Monday, May 25, 2015

ROLAND GARROS: Halep makes winning return, Gulbis says it's now or never

Returning to a tournament where you’ve done exceptionally well the year before can often be a double-edged sword.

On one hand, you can draw on your past results to give you confidence, but on the other, there is the added pressure of expectation and of defending many points.

But both Simona Halep, last year’s runner-up, and Garbine Muguruza, a quarter-finalist in 2014, handled their return to Paris in spectacular fashion, booking their place in the second round with straight sets victories.

Halep, whose last match on Philippe Chatrier Stadium last year was a tight three-set loss to Maria Sharapova in the final, needed just 75 minutes to beat Russian Evgeniya Rodina 7-5, 6-4.

The Romanian world No3 squandered an early break in the opening set before recovering to break against in game 11 and take the lead. The pair again exchanged breaks in the second set before Halep broke to love in the 11th game and sealed the match.

"Was tough," Halep said of how she felt walking back on Philippe Chatrier.

"But I was enjoying a lot. I tried just to be focused for what I have to do on court to play my game. Many people came, and it was really nice, the atmosphere. It was a great day for me. I just want to enjoy it."
Muguruza, who had her best grand slam result in Paris last year when she made the quarter-finals, beating Serena Williams en route, required just over an hour to defeat Petra Martic 6-2, 7-5.

"Obviously I was really, really nervous. The first match of the next year when you did a good tournament last year, you feel a lot of pressure," confessed the Spanish world No21.

"So I’m just happy to win the match and to fight and not to be like blocked. Sometimes when you are too nervous you block yourself and you cannot play. I’m happy that this did not happen."

2008 champion Ana Ivanovic recovered from a first-set letdown to defeat big-serving Yaroslava Shvedova 4-6, 6-2, 6-0.

On the men’s side, world No5 Kei Nishikori overcame a stiff challenge from home veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu in the second set to advance 6-3, 7-5, 6-1.

Nishikori, one of five Japanese men in the main draw – the most in Paris since 1967 – awaits the winner of the match between Australian Marinko Matosevic and recently-crowned Geneva champion Thomaz Bellucci.

"It’s great to see many Japanese players here, and I think men’s tennis got much better right now in Japan," said the 25-year-old.

Last year’s semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis recorded just his third victory of the year by easily dispatching Dutch qualifier Igor Sijsling 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

"I’m lacking couple of weeks of decent tennis. Hopefully I can make up now. I mean, it’s now or never for the clay season," said the Latvian.

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