ICYMI at French Open: Maria Sharapova's first-round win was by a clay smidgen

Maria Sharapova won six straight games to close out her first-round French Open match. EPA/IAN LANGSDON

PARIS -- Where have you been for the past 1,093 days, Maria Sharapova?

After a long hiatus in Paris dating back to 2015, Sharapova made her return to Roland Garros.

What was expected to be a routine win against Richel Hogenkamp for the No. 28th-seeded Russian on Tuesday turned into a closely contested match.

At times, it looked as though Sharapova might not survive at all. Down 3-0 in the final set, she was moving sluggishly and unable to hit through the heavy court conditions.

But then Sharapova began to act like a former two-time French Open champ, reeling off six straight games to close out the match, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, to reach the second round.

Since coming back following a 15-month drug suspension a year ago, Sharapova hasn't found much consistency on the court. She won a lower-level event in Tianjin, China, toward the end of 2017, but this season she had not played well -- until the clay-court swing began.

Sharapova reached the quarterfinals of Madrid and semis of Rome. Now she's here at the French Open, the only Slam she's won twice, so things are looking better.

"Well, no year is the same, and no situation is the same," she said in press after the win. "That's why I still enjoy competing, because every week, every tournament brings kind of a new challenge and a new way to face it."

From Sharapova to Shapovalov, the 19-year-old wunderkind also walked away from Roland Garros with an opening-day win.

Against Aussie John Millman, Denis Shapovalov dropped only 11 games in three sets.

Afterward, Shapovalov was impressive in describing not only his quick ascent in the rankings, but how he is not feeling pressured to win too early in his career.

"At [Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's] age, they are still improving, still getting better," Shapovalov said. "So for me it's kind of calming, in a way. You know, I feel even if I don't have the results right now this year, next year, I feel like I have such a long way, so much time to improve and to get to where they are right now."

And apropos of nothing, go Canada. Two of the brightest young stars in their respective sports hail from the land of the Maple Leaf. Following a trip to Denmark for a World Championship meeting, Connor McDavid, the 21-year-old hockey phenom, made the quick pilgrimage to Paris, though he was not at Shapovalov's match Tuesday.

In an interview with Tennis Channel, McDavid said he had all the admiration in the world for Shapovalov and tennis players in general.

But when it came to his Stanley Cup prediction, McDavid was a little more, well, to the point: "I don't care," he said.

Big ups to Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who won her first main-draw match since a horrific injury last year at Wimbledon that ruptured her patellar tendon.

Mattek-Sands underwent surgery soon after and became somewhat of a social media star, providing fans with updates and words of encouragement on her way back to health.

Mattek-Sands spent a good amount of time doing analyst work as she continued to rehab her knee. After her win Tuesday, she told the media that being able to spend time watching players gave her strategic insight on how she could improve.

So far, so good.

That John Isner. Can he not win a match in a single day? I mean, we all know what he did at Wimbledon eight years ago, taking his sweet old time to finally dismiss Nicolas Mahut in three days and countless hours on the court.

After he completed his two-day, opening-round win, John Isner was asked how to achieve the impossible -- that is take out Rafael Nadal on clay. Isner said you simply have to overpower the world No. 1. " It is the only way. Because if he gets a hold of the point offensively, you're done. I mean, you guys remember [Robin] Soderling beating him. That's what he did. He just knocked the cover off the ball, no hesitation, and just went after him and stayedon the offensive as much as he possibly could. But beating Nadal on clay is literally one of the toughest things in sports, period."

Matt Wilansky, ESPN.com2y ago

And this week at the French Open, he needed two days to take out American compatriot Noah Rubin to advance to the second round. OK, sure, the circumstances were different; Isner needed the extra time only because of inclement weather the night before. And he needed only three sets. And just over two hours on the court.

But still ...

In all seriousness, Isner was solid. He socked a staggering 67 winners and 28 aces to hand Noah a 6-3, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (7) loss.

Isner joined Steve Johnson as U.S. men's winners Tuesday, while Ryan Harrison and Tennys Sandgren failed to advance.

Seriously, what's not to love about Novak Djokovic?