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By Kate Battersby   on   Monday 26 May 2014
Can she do it again?

Ksenia Pervak walked out on to Philippe Chatrier Court for her first-round match against Maria Sharapova clad in a tracksuit printed with an army camouflage design, rather as if she expected to find herself imminently engaged in high-level warfare.

But it was Pervak, ranked 156, who ended up with a bad case of combat fatigue. There would be no shock victory to help her celebrate her 23rd birthday tomorrow; instead she was steamrollered beneath her Russian compatriot’s groundstrokes. Sharapova emerged victorious 6-1, 6-2.

The talk at the post-match press conference was already all about her possible quarter-final against Serena Williams, which many forecast will decide who lifts the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. But Sharapova batted aside these questions as easily as she fended off Pervak.

“It’s tough to think about that match down the line where you have to compete in three more matches before that,” she commented drily. “Obviously many people look forward to matches where we play each other. But in many ways it doesn’t matter if it’s the fourth round, quarters, semis or final. There is only one champion at any tournament. So it’s not really about when you face somebody. It’s about who comes through. Right now it’s not my concern.”

Quite so. As it was, this first-round joust must have been crushing for Pervak, who would have hoped for more than the five games she was permitted when losing to Sharapova here four years ago in their only previous meeting. But the first set went by without a single winner from the left-hander, or even service hold. Only a clutch of errors from the No.7 seed culminating in a horribly fluffed drive volley gifted Pervak a place on the scoreboard. Of the last 13 points in the set, 12 were grabbed by Sharapova.

A hold to love at the start of the second from Pervak only flattered to deceive. True, the former world No.37 is still recovering form after 2013 was obliterated by injury, and this is her first Grand Slam appearance since Australia last year. But this was her fourth career attempt to win a match at Roland Garros, and the fourth time she foundered. It was all done in 61 minutes.


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