Azarenka survives scare as defending champ Li Na cruises

World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka made hard work of her opening round match at the French Open

Story highlights

  • World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka survives huge scare in French Open first round
  • Azarenka goes one set and 4-0 down before fighting back to beat Alberta Brianti
  • Defending champion Li Na enjoys smooth passage through to round two
  • Vera Zvonareva, the number 11 seed, pulls out of tournament through injury

World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka rallied from a set and 4-0 down to unseeded Italian Alberta Brianti as she eventually emerged into the second round of the French Open on Monday.

The 22-year-old looked like she would achieve the unwanted feat of becoming the first top-seeded player to lose in the opening round at Roland Garros in the Open era.

But after Brianti moved to within two games of a landmark victory Azarenka, from Belarus, won 12 of the next 14 to finally earn a clash with Germany's Dinah Pfizenmaier.

"I was kind of thinking there was a flight straight to Minsk around 3pm tomorrow, so I could catch that," Azarenka told the WTA Tour's official website. "But I didn't want to leave too soon.

Courting China: Li Na leaps up sport's rich list

"I think it was maybe a mix of things," Azarenka added of her below-par opening to the tournament.

"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.

Sharapova ready for tough clay challenge
Sharapova ready for tough clay challenge


    Sharapova ready for tough clay challenge


Sharapova ready for tough clay challenge 04:36
Ana Ivanovic 'hungry' for more success
Ana Ivanovic 'hungry' for more success


    Ana Ivanovic 'hungry' for more success


Ana Ivanovic 'hungry' for more success 04:37
Piers plays tennis with Serena Williams
Piers plays tennis with Serena Williams


    Piers plays tennis with Serena Williams


Piers plays tennis with Serena Williams 00:50

"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."

Defending champion Li Na, from China, had no such difficulties as she eased into round two with a regulation 6-2 6-1 victory over Romania's Sorana Cirstea.

The 30-year-old became the first Asian winner of a grand slam singles title at last year's event and is aiming to become the first woman since Belgium's Justine Henin in 2007 to successfully defend her crown.

"I'll just try my best," she told reporters. "It's tough for me to stay at the same level all the time." Li will now face France's Stephanie Foretz Gacon in the next round.

Polish third seed Agnieszka Radwanska sped to a 6-1 6-0 win over Serbia's Bojana Jovanovksi in just 49 minutes and will now face seven-time grand slam winner Venus Williams in round two.

Home favorite and No. 8 seed Marion Bartoli progressed into the second round with a 6-3 6-3 win over Czech qualifier Karolina Plizkova.

But Russian 11th seed Vera Zvonareva withdrew from the tournament on Monday morning with a right shoulder injury.

Sabine Lisicki, the No. 12 seed from Germany, slumped to a surprise 6-4 6-3 defeat to America's Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

There were also victories on Monday for Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova, Serbia's Jelena Jankovic, Petra Cetkovska of the Czech Republic and Italy's No. 17 seed Roberta Vinci.


    • Rafael Nadal of Spain watches the ball in his match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia during during day seven of the China Open at the National Tennis Center on October 3, 2014 in Beijing, China.

      What does 2015 hold for Rafa?

      Rafael Nadal's body might be giving him a few problems, but his mind remains as strong as ever. Will the Spaniard add to his haul of 14 grand slam titles?
    • LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and his long time girlfriend Kim Sears arrive at Buckingham Palace on October 17, in London, England. Murray will become an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and receive his medal from the Duke of Cambridge. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

      Love game: Andy Murray to tie knot

      The Scot has served up a few changes to his support team in 2014 but there's one person who isn't going anywhere -- his new fiancée Kim Sears.
    • Despite being forced to retire at the age of 24 due to health problems, Lacoste remained in the game and went on start the "Lacoste" brand in 1933, which specialised in tennis products. The inspiration for the company's logo came from his nickname as a player, "le crocodile."

      'Crocodile' who broke all the rules

      His distinctive crocodile logo is seen on clothing all over the world, but Rene Lacoste also left a lasting legacy in the development of tennis.
    • Serena Williams of the US holds the US Open trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during their US Open 2014 women's singles finals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center September 7, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

      Serena savors U.S. Open win

      Serena Williams is without peer in the modern women's game and now she is on a par with two American tennis legends from the past.
    • American tennis player and golfer Althea Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, whom she beat in two sets to become the first black woman to win the Women's Singles Finals at Wimbledon.

      The amazing life of Althea Gibson

      Over the course of her remarkable life, Althea Gibson was many things to many people -- but it was tennis where she really left her mark.
    • Courting couple at match point

      "I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
    • LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 03: Tennis / Frauen: Wimbledon 2004, London; Finale; Siegerin Maria SHARAPOVA / RUS 03.07.04. (Photo by Bongarts/Bongarts/Getty Images)

      'Baby' Sharapova's big moment

      It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
    • 'Swiss Miss' follows mom's lead

      Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.