PARIS, France - Venus Williams made a welcome return to Roland Garros on Sunday evening, toughing out a three set win over Argentine teenager Paula Ormaechea to set up a potentially tantalizing second round encounter.
Williams, who had missed last year's French Open with an abdominal injury, hit 17 unforced errors in a shaky first set but regrouped very nicely from there, hitting just 12 errors in the second and third sets combined (coupled with 29 winners) to get past the feisty Ormaechea in three sets, 46 61 63.
"She played super well the first set. She did a lot of the right things and I have to congratulate her on that set," Williams said. "Thankfully the next two sets were better for me, but she played beautifully today. The thing I was most impressed with was her fight, determination. You can see she has a plan for this game."
Williams is also playing her first Grand Slam since her seven month lay-off due to Sjögren's Syndrome, an energy-sapping condition she was diagnosed with during last year's US Open. "I've learned how to live with this, but I have a lot to learn still," she said. "It's a big accomplishment just to be here right now.
"But I'm going up. It's an adventure and a journey. It's life happening."
Up next for Williams could be No.3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, should she win her first round match - Williams leads the head-to-head, 5-2, but in their only 2012 meeting it was Radwanska who prevailed comfortably in Miami.
"Obviously that day I panicked. I wasn't feeling my best and I didn't know how to handle it. Since that time I've gotten a little better," Williams said. "At least now I won't panic. I can't say I'll do better or worse, but at least I won't panic."
The seeds went 6-0 on Day 1, with No.6 seed Sam Stosur, No.10 seed Angelique Kerber, No.13 seed Ana Ivanovic, No.20 seed Lucie Safarova, No.21 seed Sara Errani and No.26 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova winning, five of them winning in straight sets - Errani beat Casey Dellacqua, 46 62 62.
Stosur, a finalist here two years ago, was in blinding form in the second set of her 64 60 victory over British No.1 Elena Baltacha, hitting 11 winners to just a single unforced error (read more about Stosur's win here).
Ivanovic and Kuznetsova are former champions here, and they were among the quickest winners - Ivanovic beat Spanish qualifier Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino, 61 61, while Kuznetsova dispatched Croatia's Mirjana Lucic, 61 63.
"The first round is always tough, especially playing Sunday, and there are nerves in the beginning," Ivanovic said. "But I really settled in afterwards and I'm very happy to get through. Also, she was a player who got a few matches in here before today, and I didn't really know much about her going in."
"Even before I won here I always enjoyed coming here. I love this tournament," Kuznetsova said. "Today I was playing pretty well, pretty focused. I did what I planned to do before the match with my coach. At some stage it turned around a little bit, but then I fought back from 3-all to win the second set."
And in her first match as a Top 10 player - she broked into the Top 10 after Rome - World No.10 Kerber beat Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai, 63 64.