Serena, Henin move to second round of French Open

Updated: May 27, 2007, 5:22 PM ET
By   | ESPN.com news services

PARIS -- Serena Williams struggled through the first set Sunday before a long rain delay allowed her to regroup and dominate Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 on the opening day of the French Open.

The eight-time Grand Slam champion was broken four times in the first set, and again in the opening game of the second, before she found her rhythm and cruised through the remainder of the match.

"I've never gone down in the first round," said Williams, who won the French Open in 2002. "I can breathe now. My goal is to stay not losing in the first round of a Grand Slam."

Seventeen of the 24 scheduled matches were postponed because of weather.

Williams was somewhat thankful for the wet conditions.

The Australian Open champion pleaded with the chair umpire to stop play while trailing 5-4 with Pironkova serving for the first set for the second time. But play continued and Williams broke to get to 5-5.

After Pironkova broke again, play was halted with the Bulgarian leading 6-5.

Serena Williams
AP Photo/Michel SpinglerAfter a slow start, Serena Williams got things clicking to defeat Tsvetana Pironkova.
"In the rain ... it was really slick on the lines," Williams said. "Going back it wasn't as rainy."

Pironkova held when play resumed to win the first set, and then broke Williams in the opening game of the second. The Bulgarian won only one more game in the match.

"I pretty much should have won that [first] set," Williams said. "I'm a perfectionist, and I'm always trying to make things perfect."

Top-seeded Justine Henin advanced to the second round by beating Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-4, 6-3. Her match was the only one to be completed that didn't start in the morning.

"Winning today is all that counts," said Henin, who is trying to win her third straight French Open title and fourth overall. "It was a bit tiring to play in these weather conditions."

Tamira Paszek of Austria, who was one game away from the second round when rain halted her match, beat Aiko Nakamura of Japan 6-4, 6-0. Dinara Safina of Russia defeated Yuliana Fedak of Ukraine 7-5, 6-4.

"We stopped the match 20 minutes before the end of the other matches, which wasn't easy for me," said Paszek, who will face Henin. "I had to wait five hours in the locker room."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.