Two-time defending champion Maria Sharapova had her hands full yesterday with Lucie Safarova on the red clay in Stuttgart. I didn't get to watch it all because of work, but I have an idea that those who did watch it may have felt exhausted by the end. It took Sharapova over 3 hours and 23 minutes to defeat Safarova 7-6, 6-7, 7-6. The Russian led 5-1 in the third set and held three match points, but was forced to go to yet another tiebreak. I wish I could have watched the whole thing.
Last year, Sharapova had to tangle with Safarova, too, in the second round, and that also went three sets, with Sharapova winning 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. And last month, in Miami, the two of them went at it for almost three hours, with Sharapova emerging the winner.
But the drama wasn't confined to Maria and Lucie. Jelena Jankovic had to fight like crazy against Mona Barthel and wound up saving four match points to win 2-6, 7-6, 6-3. It's good to see Barthel doing so well; she tends to go into lengthy slumps (can you call it a "slump" when it lasts that long?).
Incidentally, Roberta Vinci has advanced to the second round, and Sara Errani has advanced to the quarterfinals, giving the Italians a bit more clay court "normalcy" than they've had lately.
For court-side coverage of the Porsche Tennis Open, check Marija's reporting at Women's Tennis Blog.