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Ivanovic, Hewitt struggle to advance

DEFENDING champion Ana Ivanovic struggled on the important points in her opening match at the French Open before beating Sara Errani of Italy 7-6 (3), 6-3 yesterday to reach the second round in Paris.

The eighth-seeded Serb converted only five of the 20 break points she earned against her opponent. Errani broke three times and even served for the first set at 5-4.

"I knew I had to work hard for my points today, and I'm very happy I did that," Ivanovic said. "And I kept my composure."

Ivanovic, who beat Dinara Safina in last year's final, pulled out of this month's Madrid Open with a knee injury, and her right knee was taped yesterday at Roland Garros. She finished the match with seven double-faults and six aces, while the 44th-ranked Errani did a good job of moving the defending champion all over the court.

"Even though I had some time off during the Madrid tournament, I feel like it takes only few days to get back in shape," Ivanovic said. "I feel very fit."

The 21-year-old Ivanovic also reached the final at Roland Garros in 2007, and last year's Australian Open final. She was the world's top-ranked player for 12 weeks in 2008 but has dropped to No. 8.

Ivo Karlovic set a tour-level record for aces with 55 in his 6-7 (1), 7-6 (4), 6-7 (4), 4-6, 3-6 loss to Lleyton Hewitt.

The 26th-seeded Croat, who has lost in the first round in 14 of his 24 grand slam appearances, broke the previous record of 51, which he shared with Joachim Johansson. The old mark for aces in a French Open match was 37, held by Andy Roddick.

At Wimbledon in 2003, Australian Hewitt lost to Karlovic to become the first man in the Open era to lose in the first round as defending champion at the All England Club.

Marat Safin, another of the eight former grand slam singles champions in the men's field, also advanced. The Russian beat Russian-born Frenchman Alexandre Sidorenko 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

"Every round is a tough one," said Safin, who is planning to retire at the end of the season. "I'm trying but I'm really suffering on the court right now. But I'll try to play better next match and I hope that I will get through."

Spanish eighth seed Fernando Verdasco compounded a miserable day for the French when he humbled Florent Serra 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.

No. 13 Marin Cilic of Croatia defeated Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic 6-0, 6-4, 6-3.

In the women's field, 25th-seeded Li Na of China defeated Marta Domachowska of Poland 6-4, 6-2, 27th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia beat Ioana Raluca Olaru of Romania 6-3, 6-2, and 32nd-seeded Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic advanced when Julia Goerges of Germany retired while trailing 5-7, 1-4.

Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia saved eight match points before finally beating Mathilde Johansson of France 2-6, 6-2, 10-8.

"For each match point, I was very confident," Johansson said. "I thought I would win it, and I missed the first one, and I was pretty nervous on the second, and it was more difficult for me to play."


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