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Serena Williams overcomes first-set struggle to reach second round at French Open

Serena Williams overcomes first-set struggle to reach second round at French Open
Serena Williams came through a first-set battle to defeat fellow American Kristie Ahn in the French Open first round, as Williams continued her quest for an elusive 24th Grand Slam title.

Williams and Ahn had met at the same stage of the US Open earlier this month – a match which Williams won in straight sets – and the result was the same on the clay courts of Roland-Garros.

Williams took the first set on a tie-break after a battle lasting 72 minutes which was riddled with unforced errors from the three-time champion.

Ahn had broken her rival in the third game to open up a lead before the 39-year-old Williams put things back on serve in game eight.

Ahn, the world number 102 who was making her Ronald-Garros debut, then broke back immediately to serve for the set but let her chance slip as Williams hit back to level at 5-5, before both held serve to send proceedings to a tie-break.  

Sixth seed Williams hit her stride to wrap up the breaker 7-2, although it was hard going for the 39-year-old in overcast conditions in Paris.

The contrast in the second set was stark, however, as Williams’ momentum from the tie-break carried through and the 23-time Grand Slam champion blitzed Ahn to take the set 6-0 and book her spot in the second round.   

Next up for Williams – who triumphed in Paris in 2002, 2013 and 2015 – will be Tsvetana Pironkova, the Bulgarian who she battled past in their US Open quarterfinal earlier this month.