Paris. Victoria Azarenka narrowly escaped becoming the first women’s top seed to lose in the first round of the French Open when she recovered from losing the opening set to beat Italian Alberta Brianti 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 on Monday.
Azarenka, 10 years younger and 104 ranking places higher than her opponent, was in patchy form, giving away breaks with double faults and errors and screaming in anguish at her own mistakes.
After losing the first-set tiebreak 6-8, the Belarussian world No. 1 found herself five points from defeat as she was 0-4 and break point down in the second set.
However, just when it seemed that Brianti was on the verge of winning her first match at Roland Garros in five appearances, Azarenka put the Italian under pressure in a long fifth game.
The Australian Open champion clawed her way back, then broke to love in the eighth game of the third set to take victory in two hours, 16 minutes.
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.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer equaled Jimmy Connors’ record of 233 career Grand Slam match wins by beating Tobias Kamke of Germany 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 in the men’s singles first round on Monday.
Federer, who owns a record 16 major championships, is 233-35 at tennis’ top four tournaments, a .869 winning percentage. Connors was 233-49.
Federer turned 30 last August and is trying to become the first man at least that old to win a Grand Slam tournament since Andre Agassi was 32 at the 2003 Australian Open.
Federer has gone more than two years since his last major title — his longest drought since winning No. 1 at Wimbledon in 2003.