Serena Williams ducked a potential first-round defeat at the French Open yesterday as she was forced to battle for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 win over Russian Vitalia Diatchenko.
Williams, who wore a catsuit on court in Paris a year ago and found the skintight anti-blood clot garment later banned by the tournament, fronted up on the Chatrier show court in a black-white split leg two-piece decorated in patterned stripes.
The 37-year-old who has played just eight complete matches this season, lost the opening set after saving a pair of set points for her 28-year-old opponent ranked 83.
But Williams regained some form to engineer the comeback into the second round to earn her 800th victory in a main draw.
“Physically I felt pretty good. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of injuries. I sprained my ankle in Australia and everything went downhill from there,” she said. “I think I’m finally on the mend.
“I just got nervous out there and I stopped moving my feet.,” she said of her slow start. “It was, like, concrete blocks on my feet.
“I’m always a little nervous in Grand Slams, especially in the first round.”
Madrid champion and fourth seed Kiki Bertens continued the title-winning form she showed in Madrid, starting with a 6-3, 6-4 defeat of France’s No. 66 Pauline Parmentier, playing here for the 15th straight time.
“It was a good win today,” Bertens said. “It’s always tough first round in a slam against a French girl.
“I’m just happy to get through, happy that it was a good fight.”
Slovak Viktoria Kuzmova inflicted another home loss on the hosts, defeating Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-3.
Former WTA No. 1 Carolina Wozniacki suffered her third first-round Paris defeat and first since 2014 as she went down to Viktoria Kudermetova 0-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Defeat of the 13th-seeded Dane gave the 22-year-old Russian winner the biggest victory of her career; Wozniacki lost her fourth clay match in succession.
“I played really well in the first set. I played aggressive. I played the way I wanted to play,” Wozniacki, who won the first seven games before fading, said,
“I think she got very lucky in the start of the second set and took advantage of the opportunities she got.
“I lost a little steam in the end and I made some unforced errors, that was very frustrating.
“I haven’t had the best lead-up to this tournament, which also has been frustrating. But, right now there’s nothing I can do about it, so…”
Wozniacki had been suffering with a leg problem in the run-up to the major.
“I had a calf injury, so I hadn’t really been able to play or practise for some weeks. I played my first points a couple of days ago and then just went from there basically.”
Brit Johanna Konta, losing Rome finalist last weekend, won her first Roland Garros match in five attempts as she posted a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of German Antonia Lottner.
While British press had long been interest in the victory breakthrough, the win was routine for Konta.
“It’s nice to have won a main-draw match here, but I didn’t really look at it too much. I’m happy to have dealt with the challenges of today, I’m pleased to have come through.”
Australia’s eighth seed Ash Barty beat Jessica Pegula of the US 6-3, 6-3.