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