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Sharapova made to toil, Safina through

MARIA Sharapova struggled again in her grand slam tournament comeback at the French Open, needing three full sets and few extra games to finally reach the third round by beating 11th-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia 6-2, 1-6, 8-6.

Again playing with tape on her troublesome right shoulder, the unseeded Sharapova hung to join top-seeded Dinara Safina and defending champion Ana Ivanovic in the next round.

Sharapova, a three-time grand slam champion who has slipped to No. 102 in the rankings because of her injury layoff, won five straight games to close out the first set.

Trailing 2-4 in the deciding set, she broke Petrova to get back on serve at 4-4, and then saved two break points to take a 5-4 lead. She saved another break point while serving at 6-6.

Sharapova is making her first grand slam appearance in almost a year after missing both the US Open and the Australian Open because of her shoulder injury. She had surgery in October.

Safina easily beat 18-year-old Russian qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko 6-1, 6-1, and Ivanovic defeated Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand 6-1, 6-2.

Safina took a 5-0 lead to open the match, stretching her streak to 17 straight games after winning 6-0, 6-0 in the first round.

"Pretty good start for the tournament," said Safina, who lost in the Australian Open final and was the runner-up at Roland Garros last year. "I just played a good game today, good enough to win."

Ivanovic looked more comfortable on court after struggling in her opening match. The eighth-seeded Serb broke the 32-year-old Tanasugarn twice in the first set and three times in the second.

No. 9 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, No. 22 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, No. 25 Li Na of China, No. 27 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, No. 29 Agnes Szavay of Hungary and No. 32 Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic also made it through, while No. 21 Alize Cornet of France reached the second round.

No. 15 Zheng Jie of China lost.

On the men's side, third-seeded Andy Murray defeated Potito Starace of Italy 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. The Briton trailed 1-5 in the third set but broke Starace three straight times to win.

No. 7 Gilles Simon of France, No. 8 Fernando Verdasco of Spain, No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, No. 13 Marin Cilic of Croatia, No. 17 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, No. 30 Victor Hanescu of Romania and No. 31 Almagro also advanced, but French veteran Fabrice Santoro played his last match at Roland Garros.


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