- Associated Press - Monday, May 28, 2012

PARIS (AP) - Just playing at this year’s French Open was an accomplishment for Venus Williams. 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. 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.

Although Williams is the one with the fast serve and the pounding groundstrokes, it was Ormaechea that was on the offensive. The strategy worked, for a while.

“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.”

Still, Williams had trouble on her serve in the final set, getting broken twice while winning four times on Ormaechea’s serve.

“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.”

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