Azarenka survives in 1st round of French Open

Associated Press
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus returns in her first round match against Alberta Brianti of Italy at the French Open tennis tournament in Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Monday May 28, 2012. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
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PARIS (AP) — Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka survived a scare in the first round of the French Open on Monday.

The Australian Open champion, who took over the No. 1 ranking by winning in Melbourne, came back to beat Alberta Brianti of Italy 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2.

Brianti, a 32-year-old veteran with one WTA title in her career, won the first set and then led 4-0 in the second before losing six straight games.

Although Azarenka won 12 of the last 14 games, she struggled with her play throughout, committing 60 unforced errors.

Azarenka started the 2012 season with a 26-match winning streak. Her first loss came in the quarterfinals at Miami.

Later Monday, top-ranked Novak Djokovic was scheduled to play his first match of the tournament. Roger Federer and defending women's champion Li Na were also playing on Day 2 of the clay-court major.

Azarenka was first up in the main stadium, and she didn't look good at the start. In the first set alone, she had 28 unforced errors.

No top-seeded woman has ever lost in the first round at the French Open since the tournament began to allow foreign entrants in 1925.

In the other Grand Slam tournaments, it has happened four times, most recently when top-ranked and top-seeded Martina Hingis lost in the first round at Wimbledon in 2001.

For Venus Williams, just playing at this year's French Open was an accomplishment. Winning was a bonus.

Williams played at a major tournament for the first time since last August, when she withdrew before her second-round match at the U.S. Open. It was then that she revealed that she had been diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, a condition that can cause fatigue and joint pain.

It didn't slow her down in the last two sets Sunday. The seven-time Grand Slam champion recovered from a poor start and beat 19-year-old Paula Ormaechea of Argentina 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 to reach the second round.

"I just learned how to live with this. It's different," Williams said. "I have a lot to learn still. ... I learn a lot every week, especially having to play a professional sport. So that's a challenge, just learning to live."

Williams was one of six major champions who advanced on the opening day of the clay-court tournament. The only one that lost was Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open winner.

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