Maria Sharapova showed some steely nerves in the first set tie-break and snuck out the only break of the match in the second set to outdo big-serving Kristina Mladenovic in the first round.
WTA Staff

LONDON, England - Maria Sharapova came under fire from some very big serving in her first round match at Wimbledon on Monday, but the World No.3 returned just well enough to move through.

Kristina Mladenovic had served up her first Top 10 win earlier in the year, against Petra Kvitova in front of her French home crowd at Paris [Indoors], and she definitely didn't look intimidated against Sharapova, consistently serving bombs in the 110s and rushing the net early and often, even winning 11 of those 15 ventures. But once the pair got to the first set tie-break, Sharapova stepped it up.

The No.3-seeded Russian clinched a tight tie-break, 7-5, and early in the second set scored the only break of the match, eventually closing out the French rising star in an hour and 42 minutes, 76(5) 63.

"I had a really tough first round. I expected it. I knew she would come out playing extremely well," Sharapova said. "I think she has a good game for the grass courts. She has, as you saw, a very good serve, a good first serve. The first set we didn't break each other. Women's tennis, kind of rare.

"It was nice to get that breaker and start the second set off being up 4-1, maybe still having chances to finish it off a bit easier than it should have been in the second. But I'm really happy with the way I came out and played my first match. The first ones are always pretty tough, especially on the grass."

Sharapova obviously has a special place in her heart for Wimbledon - it was here in 2004 where she won her first Grand Slam title and burst into the international spotlight. And every year the Russian enjoys coming back to London - she was asked in her press conference what she enjoys about it.

"Well, I've been on the road for a while, but coming into Wimbledon and London, I feel like I've been in many big cities, but coming to this part of London quiets things down. It's nice waking up to the birds chirping rather than the taxis or things I've heard in the last six or seven weeks. It's been a really nice balance. I really enjoy coming here, being able to be in a home and cook, not having to go out or eat anywhere. It's more of a home environment rather than being in hotels and going to restaurants.

"It's a bit more domestic, I guess."

Another topic Sharapova was asked about after her match was Nelson Mandela, who is struggling with health issues. "For someone with such a big name, who has touched so many people in this world, it's extremely sad to see him in that position," Sharapova said. "It should be a celebration of what he has accomplished in his life than a sadness, even though many people around the world are sad about it.

"He's extremely influential to so many people on a very positive level. I've never had a chance in my life to meet him, but the people who have met him have said incredibly nice things about him."