The No.7 seeded Russian, who enjoyed her first Top 20 season last year, got a rude awakening in the New Year in the form of a determined Cornet, who was two games away from defeat before mounting her comeback to advance 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5).
"It feels really great to win the first match of 2017, on the first of January, after a thriller match against Elena," Cornet said after the victory.
"It was the worst scenario ever, 7-6 in the third, almost three hours of match. It was a big fight and I'm happy I'm through. I feel ready for the rest of the tournament."
Vesnina took advantage of a shaky start from the Frenchwoman to build her momentum early on, quickly taking the opening set and building up a daunting 4-1 lead in the second. But the match turned on a dime as Cornet put the pressure on, drawing out the unforced errors from Vesnina's racquet and rattling off five straight games to level the match.
? WTA (@WTA) January 1, 2017
With the heat rule in effect, the pair were back on court for a tense final set, staying even blow for blow and heading into a tiebreak. After two hours and thirty-seven minutes, an ill-timed drop shot from Vesnina - on her 65 unforced errors - didn't make it over the net and gave Cornet match point and sent her into the second round.
"First I have to think about recovering from this match, that's the most important," Cornet said. "Then I can think about the second round.
"I play against McHale, who is a very good player and had an easy first round win. I'm expecting a tough battle, but you know, this match really got me in the rhythm! I'm just ready to keep going."
? Alize Cornet (@alizecornet) January 1, 2017