May 28, 2006

Sharapova fights back to beat Washington

By Simon Cambers

PARIS (Reuters) - Fourth seed Maria Sharapova saved three
match points as she fought back from 5-2 down in the final set
to beat Mashona Washington 6-2 5-7 7-5 in the first round of
the French Open on Sunday.

The former Wimbledon champion, playing her first match in
almost two months after being sidelined with a foot injury,
looked down and out in the decider but roared back to clinch a
second-round clash with Czech Iveta Benesova.

Sharapova, twice a quarter-finalist in Paris, looked on
course for a comfortable victory when she romped through the
first set thanks to a succession of winners.

But Washington, the world number 97, lifted her game in the
second set and kept Sharapova off balance with a series of drop

Washington hammered 18 winners in the second set alone to
level the match.

After Sharapova had her right foot re-strapped at the start
of the third set, Washington stormed to a 5-2 lead and earned a
match point on the Russian's serve.

But Sharapova saved it and held for 5-3 before saving two
more on Washington's serve in the next game.

With Washington tightening up, the fourth seed took her
chance to break back and after holding for 5-5, she moved ahead
when Washington double-faulted to drop serve.

Sharapova then served out for victory, raising her hands in
celebration as a backhand from Washington sailed wide after two
hours, 26 minutes.