Serena Williams survived a scare in the first ever night session match at the French Open as she edged out Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 7-6(6) 6-2 in the first round on Monday.
Organisers have introduced night matches under the Philippe Chatrier Court lights to provide some late-night drama for the fans but the match was played in an empty stadium because of a Covid-19 curfew in the French capital.
The flat atmosphere hardly helped the 39-year-old Williams who squandered a 5-2 lad in the first set against a tricky opponent who battled back to move into a tiebreaker.
Begu then led 6-4 and Williams got lucky with a return that clipped the tape, before rattling off four points to win the opener with a drive volley – producing a roar that echoed around the empty stands.
Williams, who has been stuck on 23 Grand Slam titles since 2017, was far more assured in the second set and managed to claim the win without further fuss.
Bianca Andreescu became the highest women’s seed to fall so far as she lost a three-hour marathon match against Tamara Zidansek.
The former US Open champion, seeded sixth, went down 6-7(1) 7-6(2) 9-7 to the Slovenian.
Canadian Andreescu, 20, served for the match at 5-4 in the deciding set but Zidansek broke back before missing a match point of her own in a gripping finale.
Andreescu found herself in trouble again serving at 7-8 and this time was unable to dig her way out of trouble with world number 85 Zidansek winning in three hours and 20 minutes.
While on paper it was a shock, Andreescu was playing at only her third Tour-level claycourt tournament and her lack of experience on the surface ultimately proved decisive.
The women’s draw lost another big name when former French Open semi-finalist Kiki Bertens fell at the first hurdle, losing 6-1 3-6 6-4 to another Slovenian, Polona Hercog.
Marketa Vondrousova, the 2019 runner-up who is seeded 20th this year, managed to avoid an early exit, battling back from a set down to beat Kaia Kanepi 4-6 6-3 6-0.
Women’s first-round results
(4) Sofia Kenin (USA) 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 (Ser) 6-3 7-6 (8-6), (28) Jessica Pegula (USA) bt Lin Zhu (Chn) 6-4 4-6 6-4, Zarina Diyas (Kaz) bt Heather Watson (Brit) 6-4 7-5, (14) Elise Mertens (Bel) bt Storm Sanders (Aus) 6-4 6-1, Marta Kostyuk (Ukr) bt (12) Garbine Muguruza (Esp) 6-1 6-4, Saisai Zheng (Chn) bt Sara Sorribes Tormo (Esp) 4-6 6-4 6-4, Varvara Gracheva (Rus) bt Lara Arruabarrena (Esp) 6-2 6-3, Camila Giorgi (Ita) bt (22) Petra Martic (Cro) 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-4, Rebecca Peterson (Swe) bt Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (10-8) 6-2, (8) Iga Swiatek (Pol) bt Kaja Juvan (Slo) 6-0 7-5, (7) Serena Williams (USA) 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 (6) Bianca Vanessa Andreescu (Can) 6-7 (1-7) 7-6 (7-2) 9-7, Madison Brengle (USA) bt Maria Camila Osorio Serrano (Col) 7-5 6-4, Sorana Cirstea (Rom) bt (19) Johanna Konta (Brit) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2, Martina Trevisan (Ita) bt Alison Van Uytvanck (Bel) 7-5 4-6 6-4, Daria Kasatkina (Rus) bt Misaki Doi (Jpn) 6-3 5-7 6-3, (10) Belinda Bencic (Swi) bt Nadia Podoroska (Arg) 6-0 6-3, Polona Hercog (Slo) bt (16) Kiki Bertens (Ned) 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, (20) Marketa Vondrousova (Cze) bt Kaia Kanepi (Est) 4-6 6-3 6-0