Maria Sharapova marked her return to the French Open with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 victory over qualifier Richel Hogenkamp. The Russian, playing in Paris for the first time since 2015, raced through the opening set before dropping nine of the next 13 games.
The 28th seed capped this wild affair with a stirring comeback, grabbing the final six games to overcome a 3-0 deficit and seal her place in the second round against Donna Vekic in an hour, 54 minutes.
Sharapova storms through the opening set
It was the perfect start for the world number one as she jumped on Hogenkamp quickly, winning 12 of the first 14 points to take an immediate 3-0 lead. Her forehand was doing most of the damage as she fired off 12 winners in that span.
Back-to-back unforced errors gave Hogenkamp her only game of the opening set, but the Russian was back on top of proceedings and some good defense forced the Dutchwoman to slice into the net, giving Sharapova a 5-1 lead. A big serve at 40-30 closed out the opener in just 24 minutes.
Hogenkamp produces unexpected comeback to level the match
It appeared to be more of the same to start the second set as a Hogenkamp volley clipped the tape and stayed on her side on break point. Everything looked to be on course for the two-time winner and she was just three games from the finish line at 3-1.
The Dutchwoman began to change tactics, varying the pace and rhythm with a combination of slices and power hitting from the baseline and after Sharapova sprayed a forehand just wide, the set was level at 3-3.
Breaks were traded to knot the score at 4-4, but the world number world 133 held for a 5-4 lead and duly took the set, a powerful forehand a backhand error from the former world number one and out of nowhere, the match was one set apiece.
Sharapova produces incredible comeback to rally, book spot in the second round
All of a sudden, the momentum was in the corner of Hogenkamp and she continued her attack with a hold to begin the final set and on break point, a beautiful backhand down the line gave her a 2-0 lead. Summarily, another hold made it 3-0 and Sharapova was staring down the abyss.
Little did anyone know at the time that would be the last game the Dutchwoman would win, the five-time major champion again with outstanding defense, a forehand on the stretch extracting an error from Hogenkamp to get the set back on serve.
After fighting off a break point to register a hold, she took the lead for good, another forehand, her primary weapon again in this seventh game, finding the opening to break and take a 4-3 advantage. After a hold to 30, Sharapova was able to draw one last error from a game Hogenkamp on match point to survive a major scare.