PARIS, France - It looked like she was headed for a first round disaster but World No.1 Victoria Azarenka hung very tough on Monday afternoon, rallying from a set and 4-0 down to beat Alberta Brianti in the first round, 67(6) 64 62.
Brianti had never beaten a Top 10 player in five tries, in fact she had never even won a set - but with powerful forehands and a mix of spins off the backhand, the Italian veteran won the first set and built a 4-0 lead in the second set.
"Before maybe I would just give up and go home. I was kind of thinking there was a flight straight to Minsk around 3 o'clock tomorrow, so I could catch that," Azarenka said of that moment. "But I didn't want to leave too soon."
Little by little Azarenka started tightening the screws, cutting back on her unforced errors as Brianti began to loosen up - in the end the Belarusian won 12 of the last 14 games of the match and avoided the dubious honor of being the first No.1 seed to lose first round at the French Open in the Open Era.
"I think it was maybe a mix of things," Azarenka commented. "I was waiting a long time for my first match here, so I couldn't wait to get out there. Maybe I was rushing too much to finish the points. Plus I also have to give Alberta a lot of credit, she played really well, and she pushed me to dig deep today.
"Bad days happen. The important thing is how I came out of it."
Azarenka even found a positive spin on her unforced error total of 60.
"If it would be 60 winners and I would lose that match, it would suck more."
Other seeds winning early on were No.15 seed Dominika Cibulkova, No.19 seed Jelena Jankovic, No.27 seed Nadia Petrova, No.29 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues and No.31 seed Zheng Jie. Jankovic snapped a four-match losing streak with a 16 61 75 victory over Patricia Mayr-Achleitner.
The only seed to go down early on was No.30 seed Mona Barthel, one of 2012's fastest-rising stars. The two had comparable winners - Davis 14, Barthel 16 - but Barthel went wild with 44 unforced errors (while Davis kept it at 11).
"I don't know what happened today. It's difficult for me," Barthel said. "I've had a great year, playing really well on a high level, but I can't expect for it to go on forever like that - there will be some ups and downs for me, for sure.
"Of course I'm a little bit sad about it, but these things happen in life. That's the way tennis goes. You win; you lose. Yeah, that's it."