• French Open

Sharapova: An honour to defend French Open

ESPN staff
May 25, 2013
Maria Sharapova admits to feeling pressure as the defending champion © PA Photos

Maria Sharapova has revealed it is an "honour" to return to the French Open and defend her crown at Roland Garros.

The Russian triumphed on the only clay court major 12 months ago with a straight sets win over Sara Errani in the final to complete the career Grand Slam, and the 26-year-old admits to being under pressure as the reigning champion but is honoured to defend her title.

"I think there's always a bit of pressure in everything that you do. Obviously it wouldn't be very fun without that type of feeling," Sharapova said.

"It's very meaningful to come back as a defending champion. It means you have done something pretty good, and you're coming back into that position and you're trying to defend it.

"I think it's one of the best honours you can have as a tennis player. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity of defending my title."

Sharapova - who has won two events in 2013 - will begin the defence of her trophy against Su-Wei Hsieh in the opening round, and the world No. 2 admits it has taken time for her to adjust to the red dirt in Paris.

"It never came easy for me to play on the clay, and that's why it took many years. But yet I felt like with every year I was getting closer. I got to a couple of semi-finals, and last year I just felt like everything came together in many different ways," she said.

Top seed Serena Williams is the one to beat as the American has collected ten trophies since suffering a shock first-round defeat to Virginie Razzano at the French Open.

Victoria Azarenka is only one of three women to have beaten Williams since, and the current Australian Open champion is in positive spirits ahead of the grand slam after missing the majority of March and April with injury.

"Physically I feel pretty good. It was great to play those two tournaments as kind of a build-up for the French Open," the Belarusian said.

"Madrid was my first one; Rome I did much better. I felt like I was finding my game from match to match. It's time to play here. That's what this whole preparation has been about. I'm glad I'm physically ready."

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