PARIS -- Serena Williams struggled through the first set
Sunday before a long rain delay allowed her to regroup and dominate
Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 on the opening day of
the French Open.
The eight-time Grand Slam champion was broken four times in the
first set, and again in the opening game of the second, before she
found her rhythm and cruised through the remainder of the match.
"I've never gone down in the first round," said Williams, who
won the French Open in 2002. "I can breathe now. My goal is to
stay not losing in the first round of a Grand Slam."
Seventeen of the 24 scheduled matches were postponed because of
Williams was somewhat thankful for the wet conditions.
The Australian Open champion pleaded with the chair umpire to
stop play while trailing 5-4 with Pironkova serving for the first
set for the second time. But play continued and Williams broke to
get to 5-5.
After Pironkova broke again, play was halted with the Bulgarian
"In the rain ... it was really slick on the lines," Williams
said. "Going back it wasn't as rainy."
Pironkova held when play resumed to win the first set, and then
broke Williams in the opening game of the second. The Bulgarian won
only one more game in the match.
"I pretty much should have won that [first] set," Williams
said. "I'm a perfectionist, and I'm always trying to make things
Top-seeded Justine Henin advanced to the second round by beating
Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-4, 6-3. Her match was the only one to be
completed that didn't start in the morning.
"Winning today is all that counts," said Henin, who is trying
to win her third straight French Open title and fourth overall.
"It was a bit tiring to play in these weather conditions."
Tamira Paszek of Austria, who was one game away from the second
round when rain halted her match, beat Aiko Nakamura of Japan 6-4,
6-0. Dinara Safina of Russia defeated Yuliana Fedak of Ukraine 7-5,
"We stopped the match 20 minutes before the end of the other
matches, which wasn't easy for me," said Paszek, who will face
Henin. "I had to wait five hours in the locker room."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.