Tennis: Erakovic advances at French Open

New Zealand tennis player Maria Erakovic. Photo / Brett Phibbs
New Zealand tennis player Maria Erakovic. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Marina Erakovic had to contend with nerves during her first-round match at the French Open overnight (NZT) but it didn't show as she easily dispatched Great Britain's Elena Baltacha 6-3 6-0 in just 53 minutes.

The New Zealand No 1 has had a wretched time in singles since winning her maiden WTA title in February, winning only one of her seven matches since, and it meant she battled nerves against Baltacha. It also didn't help that the weather in Paris caused delays and the pair had their match shifted to a different court.

She will now face 16th-seeded Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova, who beat Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko 6-1 6-4 in her first-round match. Cibulkova has beaten Erakovic in straight sets in their previous two meetings, both on hard courts.

"I'm very happy,'' a relieved Erakovic told Newstalk ZB. "I was very nervous to start off with. Any first round, especially a grand slam, is very difficult so I'm glad I shrugged those nerves off and tried to play aggressively, move well and just focus on my game.

And I think I did that well.

"There were moments, even in the second set, when I was tight and maybe could have dropped a game but I fought hard and really tried to focus on my movement and hitting the ball. Even though I got nervous, I think it really helped me in crucial situation.''

Baltacha took an early 2-0 lead in the first set but Erakovic quickly broke back and took command with her serve and forehand, hitting 22 winners and four aces. Baltacha had three break points at 3-5 to try to save the set but Erakovic recovered to serve it out.

The second set lasted just 22 minutes as Erakovic moved through to the second round at Roland Garros for the second time in her career. She even produced a handful of dropped shots, which proved effective in the cool Paris conditions.

"That's one thing I have been working on and I thought I would use it against Elena because she's not the best mover out there and it was cold and the balls don't bounce as much,'' she said.

Baltacha came into the match with a ranking of 234 but gained entry to the French Open through a protected ranking and played her first tournament since a long layoff only last week.

- APNZ

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