Iga Swiatek started her French Open title defence with a straight-sets win over her good friend Kaja Juvan in the first round on her 20th birthday on Monday. The Pole, who powered to a surprise triumph last year at Roland Garros, won 6-0, 7-5 against her Slovenian opponent.

Later in the first ever French Open night session, Serena Williams earned a hard-fought victory over Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu on Monday. The 39-year-old, seeded seventh this year, saved two set points in a first-set tie-break before winning 7-6 (8/6), 6-2.

Williams, who has lost four major finals since her last Slam success at the 2017 Australian Open, will take on Begu’s compatriot Mihaela Buzarnescu in the second round.

However, sixth seed Bianca Andreescu was dumped out in the first round on Monday, losing a marathon three-set clash to Slovenia’s world number 85 Tamara Zidansek.

Zidansek, who will face American Madison Brengle in the second round, won 6-7 (1/7), 7-6 (7/2), 9-7 after three hours and 20 minutes.

Fourth seed Sofia Kenin withstood a comeback from former champion Jelena Ostapenko to win in three sets and reach the second round. The United States’ Kenin, who lost to Iga Swiatek in last year’s final at Roland Garros, held her nerve to secure a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory.

Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion, will face qualifier and fellow American Hailey Baptiste for a place in the last 32.

The first official night match under the lights on Court Philippe Chatrier was played behind closed doors due to a 9pm curfew imposed by the French government due to Covid-19.

Williams, who had suffered early defeats in both Roma and Parma earlier this month, improved as the match progressed.

“It wasn’t easy in that first set. I was up and I felt like I had some opportunities. She’s a really good player, she’s had some really good wins so I was really happy I was able to get that first set and the match,” said the three-time Roland Garros champion.

Begu fought back from 5-2 down in the opening set, but failed to serve it out when leading 6-5 and then saw two set points come and go when leading the breaker 6-4.

Williams needed only one opportunity, driving a forehand volley into the corner to take control. The former world number one strengthened her grip on the tie by breaking 74th-ranked Begu in the first game of the second set.

She moved through the gears on her own serve from there and broke again in the seventh game before wrapping up victory after an hour and 42 minutes.

Swiatek will face either Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in the second round.

The first set was the eighth seed’s third straight bagel after thumping Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-0 in the Italian Open final earlier this month, which saw her break into the world’s top 10.

Juvan put up much more of a fight in the second set, though, battling back from 3-1 down before missing two break points in the 11th game. But her resistance ended shortly afterwards, as Swiatek came back from 40-0 down in the next game and secured victory on her fourth match point in the sunshine on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“You never know what’s going to happen and I’ve never been a defending champion, even in the smallest tournaments, so I didn’t know what to expect,” said Swiatek, who was presented with flowers on court after the match for her birthday.

“In the second set it was really hard, she didn’t give me any birthday gifts,” added Swiatek. “So I’m really happy I could win those important points.”

Canada’s Andreescu, the injury-plagued 2019 US Open champion, had been a fitness doubt for the tournament after pulling out of an event in Strasbourg last Wednesday.

But she was forced into a gruelling deciding set against Zidansek, which saw the world number seven fail to serve out the match at 5-4 and then save a match point two games later.

Zidansek created two more match points in the 16th game of the third set and needed only one to wrap up victory.

The longest women’s singles match in French Open history remains Virginie Buisson’s first-round win over fellow Frenchwoman Noelle van Lottum in 1995, which lasted four hours and seven minutes.


First round

Sofia Kenin (USA x4) bt Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3

Hailey Baptiste (USA) bt Anna Blinkova (RUS) 6-1, 6-4

Tereza Martincova (CZE) bt Ivana Jorovic (SRB) 6-3, 7-6 (8/6)

Jessica Pegula (USA x28) bt Zhu Lin (CHN) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4

Zarina Diyas (KAZ) bt Heather Watson (GBR) 6-4, 7-5

Elise Mertens (BEL x14) bt Storm Sanders (AUS) 6-4, 6-1

Marta Kostyuk (UKR) bt Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP x12) 6-1, 6-4

Zheng Saisai (CHN) bt Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4

Varvara Gracheva (RUS) bt Lara Arruabarrena (ESP) 6-2, 6-3

Rebecca Peterson (SWE) bt Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (10/8), 6-2

Iga Swiatek (POL x8) bt Kaja Juvan (SLO) 6-0, 7-5

Serena Williams (USA x7) bt Irina Camelia-Begu (ROM) 7-6 (8/6), 6-2

Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROM) bt Arantxa Rus (NED) 7-5, 7-5

Tamara Zidansek (SLO) bt Bianca Andreescu (CAN x6) 6-7 (1/7), 7-6 (7/2), 9-7

Madison Brengle (USA) bt Maria Camila Osorio (COL) 7-5, 6-4

Sorana Cirstea (ROM) bt Johanna Konta (GBR x19) 7-6 (7/5), 6-2

Martina Trevisan (ITA) bt Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 7-5, 4-6, 6-4

Darya Kasatkina (RUS) bt Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-3, 5-7, 6-3

Belinda Bencic (SUI x10) bt Nadia Podoroska (ARG) 6-0, 6-3

Polona Hercog (SLO) bt Kiki Bertens (NED x16) 6-1, 3-6, 6-4

Caroline Garcia (FRA) bt Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-3, 6-1

Harmony Tan (FRA) bt Alize Cornet (FRA) 6-4, 6-4

Marketa Vondrousova (CZE x20) bt Kaia Kanepi (EST) 4-6, 6-3, 6-0

With AFP Inputs