Maria Sharapova nearly crumbled under the weight of remarkable expectations Tuesday night in her first-round match at the U.S. Open.
Sharapova, the No. 7 seed, barely survived a three-set match against middling American Laura Granville, who never has defeated a top-10 player.
The 17-year-old Russian often has looked uncomfortable in the spotlight she earned by winning Wimbledon this year, and nerves consumed her during her first night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium. After cruising in the first set, Sharapova needed to break serve at 5-5 in the third set for a 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 win.
"I'm so happy to get it through," she said. "My game went off for a while. I went to la-la land. It's all about the spirit, just hanging in there."
When Granville broke Sharapova to win the second set, the crowd stood up to applaud the American. Granville's confidence swelled; Sharapova became jittery. She tugged on her dress. She looked into the stands at her coach. She bounced nervously up and down.
That's been a common scene since Sharapova came out of relative obscurity to win the most prestigious tournament in tennis. Her Wimbledon title and her good looks quickly made her the new face of women's tennis -- a distinction she may not have been ready for.
Recently, her tennis has trailed her celebrity. She's never made it farther than the third round in any tournament since Wimbledon.
Andy Roddick set the U.S. Open record by serving a ball 152 mph in the opening set of his first-round win over Scoville Jenkins. That mark shattered the previous Open record -- a 143-mph serve by Greg Rusedski in 2000. . . .
The most surprising part of Marat Safin's first-round loss wasn't how he played. It was how he acted. Safin, the No. 13 seed, seemed somehow indifferent during his four-set loss to Thomas Enqvist. Usually a racket-throwing, fist-pumping ball of energy, Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champ, acted passive -- even bored.
"Whenever I try to show emotion, nobody likes it," Safin said. "When I don't show emotion, nobody likes it. What do you want me to do?" . . .
Tim Henman, seeded fifth, suffered through five sets and lower back problems before beating Ivo Karlovic, 7-6 (7-3), 6-7 (9-7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. "I didn't really know whether I would even be able to play or how my back would be," Henman said.