The procession of balls popped up at Maria Sharapova from her left, from her right, and even emerged from behind her shoulders. Sharapova faced each one with a smile and a rapid response from her right hand.
All that activity took place after the second seed obliterated Alexandra Cadantu, 6-0, 6-0, in a 48-minute mismatch on Court Suzanne Lenglen. Looking fit and playing fast, a focused Sharapova seemed to expend almost as much energy accommodating autograph seekers thrusting tennis balls in her face as she did dismantling the 75th-ranked Romanian.
With a blockbuster quarterfinal against Serena Williams possible, Sharapova came out belting the ball and imposing her game, causing some to surely think ahead. In a matter of minutes, she built a 4-0 lead, permitting just three points in the process.
There is a time and place for everything, and this first-rounder against a three-time Grand Slam champion on a stadium court was not the time or place for Cadantu to make her French Open main-draw debut. Sharapova shut out Cadantu both on the scoreboard and in the winners department, delivering 18 winners, 18 more than her opponent hit. She won 51 points and lost just 18.
An overpowering Sharapova repeatedly stepped inside the baseline to blast shots into the corners, sending Cadantu on a series of side-to-side sprints that drained her strength and depleted her desire. The 22-year-old baseliner from Bucharest entered this match with a hardly intimidating 2-7 WTA clay-court record on the season, and from the opening game it was apparent she lacked the weight of shot and depth to pose any problems for her stronger adversary.
The two-time French Open semifinalist played with controlled aggression, cracking cross-court drives that opened the court and displaced Cadantu further and further behind the baseline. The ruthless former No. 1 converted six of nine break point chances and won 25 of the 33 points played on her overmatched opponent's serve. Sharapova's footwork and accuracy were both sharp throughout the lopsided match; maintaining concentration could have been a challenge for some.
It was Sharapova's ninth consecutive French Open first-round win and marked the first time in 43 career matches in Paris that she scored a shutout. Playing each shot with a purpose, Sharapova raised her record to 23-3 in her last 26 matches, including a 12-1 mark on clay, with her lone loss on dirt coming to Serena.
Both women must take care of business to reach that highly-anticipated quarterfinal. Next up for Sharapova is a second-round meeting with 84th-ranked Ayumi Morita, who has two French Open wins to her credit.