Sixth seed Serena Williams battled sluggish conditions to defeat fellow American Kristie Ahn 7-6(2) 6-0 to open her campaign at the French Open on Monday.
Playing against an opponent she defeated at the same stage at the U.S. Open less than a month ago, Williams found herself trailing twice in the opening set at the Court Philippe Chatrier but rallied each time to force a tiebreaker.
Williams, who has won three of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles at Roland Garros, raised her level in the tiebreaker and did not look back from there, handing the 102nd-ranked Ahn a bagel in the second set.
The 39-year-old had to dig deep to find a way to win points in the cold and heavy conditions and needed five match points to seal the victory and set up a second round meeting against Tsvetana Pironkova, who earlier beat Andrea Petkovic 6-3 6-3.
The first match after a major career breakthrough is always a potential banana skin but Dominic Thiem avoided any French Open slip-up with an impressive defeat of Marin Cilic on Monday.
It was perhaps closer than the 6-4 6-3 6-3 scoreline suggested but Austrian third seed Thiem sent out a clear message that having won the U.S. Open he is hungry for more.
A clash between the 149th and 150th men’s Grand Slam champions and the most recent members of that exclusive club looked like a tough first hurdle for Thiem.
But the 27-year-old, 15 days after beating Alexander Zverev in a nerve-jangling Flushing Meadows final, showed no sign of any hangover in his first match since that five-set epic.
Two days after Victoria Azarenka questioned the presence of fans at the French Open, Czech Petra Kvitova said she was very glad she could play in front of spectators at Roland Garros.
The claycourt Grand Slam in Paris is allowing 1,000 fans each day despite rising COVID-19 infection rates in France while the recent U.S. Open Grand Slam in New York was played in front of empty stands.
“I think we are very glad and very pleased, honestly, that we are here and we can play here, even with few spectators,” Kvitova said on Monday after her opening win over Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin under the closed roof of Court Philippe Chatrier.