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. I have a lot to learn still,” Williams said. “I learned how to just _ just learning. So I think that’s my biggest challenge. 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 that advanced on the opening day of the clay-court tournament. The only one that lost was Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open winner.
On Monday, top-ranked Novak Djokovic and 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer will be on court. In the women’s draw, No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and defending champion Li Na are scheduled to play.
Williams was last up in the main stadium, Court Philippe Chatrier, and she didn’t get off to a good start.
“She played super well the first set,” Williams said. “I think she really did a lot of the right things, and I have to congratulate her on the first set, and thankfully the next two sets were better for me.”
“I wasn’t able to get a foothold,” Williams said. “She had some good returns. And so I had to give those to her, but I felt like I was returning well finally in the third.”
U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur and former French Open winners Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic also advanced to the second round.
The sixth-seeded Stosur, who lost in the 2010 French Open final, was first up on Court Philippe Chatrier. She beat Elena Baltacha of Britain 6-4, 6-0.
“It’s a bit of an early start, but always nice to get through it now,” the Australian said. “You have the whole day and whatever else to recover and, yeah, enjoy.”