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Djokovic, Ivanovic sweat it out

Sunday, May 25, 2008
By Matthew Cronin

The Serbians are no longer new sensations, but high-ranked players with a world of expectations on their broad shoulders.

That showed on opening day at Roland Garros when world number three Novak Djokovc and number two Ana Ivanovic struggled to victories. Australian Open champion Djokovic had a very hard time convincing himself to hit out and scratched past Germany's Denis Gremelmayr 4-6 6-3 7-5 6-2 while 2007 finalist Ivanovic was frequently inconsistent in a 6-2 7-5 victory Sweden's Sofia Arvidsson.

Still, the childhood friends came, as Djokovic regained control of his serve and overhead and Ivanovic played smarter in the end.

"I'm not really happy with my performance today. I played pretty passively and he used it, he was taking chances and deserved to win the first set," said Djokovic, who won the Italian Open three weeks ago and who was beaten by defending champion Rafael Nadal in the semifinals last year.

Ivanovic, who began the year with a bang by reaching the Australian Open final and winning Indian Wells, has slumped as of late, being knocked out early of both Berlin and Rome. Had she had better performances at those two tournaments, she likely would have come into Roland Garros at number one, but instead, Maria Sharapova holds that honor.

While Ivanovic is loaded with talent, it's still not clear whether she has the mental make-up to push through to the top. "This year I'm number two and obviously have more expectations for myself, so that's something I'm still learning how to deal with," said Ivanovic, who will face the tricky Czech lefty, Lucie Safarova, in the next round.

While the Serbs sweated, American James Blake also had a brief bout of nervousness when he held a 6-4 6-1 5-1 lead over Germany's Rainer Schuettler and saw the German take him to a third set tiebreaker, but he prevailed 7-6 behind a series of ferocious forehands 7-6 (3).

Blake’s win ended a nightmarish streak for the US men. Last year, they were 0-9 in first round matches.
“Hopefully, this will prove that I can put a bunch of wins together,” Blake said. “We set the bar low enough so that were over it by 3 pm on Sunday. It was a tough situation last year, but now maybe it's like playing with house money this year. We all feel like last year was an aberration that should never happen again and this year we are looking for better results.”

Britain's Andy Murray struggled even more, but changed tactics and gutted out a 6-2 1-6 4-6 6-0 6-2 victory over French teen Jonathan Eysseric.

There were two upsets on the women's side, when 2006 semifinalist Nicole Vaidisova went down 7-6, 6-1 to fellow Czech Iveta Benesova. It was Vaidisova's sixth consecutive defeat in 2008 and even the presence of her new coach, Britain's David Felgate, couldn't keep her calm enough to keep the ball in the court. “It’s always tough to play your best friend,” Vaidisova said. “But I feel like I'm in a good place. There have been a lot of changes. The results will not come right away. I'm making my own decisions and I think I grew up a lot”

Seeded No. 24 and coming off her best year ever, Razzano fell 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to Klara Zakopalova.

Other notable wins of the day went to seeds Dominika Cibulkova, Caroline Wozniacki, David Nalbandian and Nicolas Almagro.




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