Former World No.1 Venus Williams survived a second set scare to knock out rising Chinese star Wang Qiang in two tight sets to reach round two at the French Open.
WTA Staff

PARIS, France - Venus Williams kicked off her 20th Roland Garros appearance with a 6-4, 7-6(3) win over Wang Qiang to reach the second round.

"The first round is always tricky," she said in her post-match press conference. "You know, she played well. I just tried to stay aggressive until the end.

"You have to still be aggressive even though the courts are slower here on the clay."

Finalist in 2002, Venus played her first French Open all the way back in 1997, but has played like no time has past this season, reaching the Australian Open final and the semifinals at the Miami Open.

"Is it 20 already? I thought I missed a few, but apparently not," she said of her milestone appearance, only missing one French Open since her debut. "Here we are. You know, what an experience. What can I say?"

Across the net was China's fastest-rising prospect; Wang Qiang began 2017 with a run to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarterfinals - beating Kristina Mladenovic en route - and began the fortnight at a career-high ranking of No.50.

Pushing the American from the outset, Wang earned the first break of the match and take a 4-2 lead. Finding a rhythm from there, the No.10 seed took the final four games to clinch the opening set.

"When I was trailing, I know she had done things to earn it, to be at 4-2, so it was a credit to her. But also, I realized I had to put some balls in the court, so that would be my main focus at that point."

Still, the 25-year-old was eager to prolong the match and took another early break; this time she managed to hold on to 5-3, and even earn a pair of set points on the veteran's famous delivery.

Venus saved both and ultimately claimed victory in the ensuing tiebreak after one hour and 40 minutes on court.

By match's end, the five-time Wimbledon winner largely found her spots, balancing 44 unforced errors with 37 winners, winning 76% of points behind her first serve.

Up next for the elder Williams sister is Japan's Kurumi Nara, who held off an impressive Grand Slam main draw debut from 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova.

"I want to play the kind of tennis that's consistent and aggressive, inspired.

"That's my goal, really, every match."

Anisimova earned the USTA French Open wildcard after back-to-back runner-up finishes at ITF Challenger tournaments.