PARIS, June 1 (Reuters) - Defending champion Maria Sharapova was pushed for the first time at the French Open before overcoming tenacious Chinese player Zheng Jie 6-1 7-5 on Chatrier Court on Saturday.
The Russian second seed, playing for the third day in succession after needing two days to complete her second round because of rain, was forced into a scrap after initially looking a class above her 43rd-ranked opponent.
Sharapova trailed 4-1 in the second set, clawed back to 4-4, then fell 5-4 behind with Zheng serving to level the match but turned up the volume of her grunting and her play to avoid being extended further.
The 26-year-old wrapped up victory when Zheng netted a forehand service return, moving through to a last-16 clash against American Sloane Stephens. (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Clare Fallon)