Sunday 22 September 2019

Serena Williams survives early scare to move into French Open second round

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - May 27, 2019. Serena Williams of the U.S. in action during her first round match against Russia's Vitalia Diatchenko. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - May 27, 2019. Serena Williams of the U.S. in action during her first round match against Russia's Vitalia Diatchenko. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Serena Williams recovered from a stuttering start to defeat Vitalia Diatchenko and book her place in the second round of the French Open.

An upset looked on the cards when Russian Diatchenko, ranked 83rd, took the first set but Williams lost just one game thereafter in a 2-6 6-1 6-0 victory.

Williams arrived in Paris having played just four tournaments this year, withdrawing from all of them except the Australian Open, where she lost from 5-1 up in the deciding set of her quarter-final against Karolina Pliskova.

Latterly Williams has been troubled by a left knee problem, and a picture of her sitting in a wheelchair last week when she took her daughter to Disneyland added to concerns about her fitness.

Twelve months after making her grand slam return in a catsuit that was eventually banned, Williams wore a striking two-piece outfit, but the less said about her tennis in the first set, the better.

Given her paucity of matches - this was Diatchenko's 38th match of the season and Williams' 10th - it was not surprising that the 37-year-old appeared horribly rusty.

A slew of errors allowed 28-year-old Diatchenko, whose calendar this year has included events in Shrewsbury and Bolton, to take the opening set comfortably.

Williams was a picture of frustration, screaming at herself and looking ever more agonised with each miss.

But the American's only first-round loss at a grand slam came here seven years ago and she set about making sure there would not be a repeat.

Williams has shown many times that her form going into a grand slam has little relevance to what she can achieve once there and, by the end of the 90-minute contest, she was looking much more like the player who has dominated the sport for two decades.

Online Editors

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport