Venus Williams falls in French Open’s 1st round

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Venus Williams falls in French Open’s 1st round

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Poland’s Urszula Radwanska celebrates beating Venus Williams of the U.S. in their first-round match at the French Open, Sunday. [AP/NEWSIS]

PARIS - With her back aching and the sun setting on Day 1 of the French Open, Venus Williams summoned the will to make one last bid at a comeback.

Stuck in what she later would call a “really big hole” in the third set against a much younger opponent, the seven-time Grand Slam champion tried to put aside the weak serving and errant shots that created the mess in the first place.

In the end, it was too much to overcome.

Wincing after some points, resting with hands on knees after others, the 30th-seeded Williams lost, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4, Sunday to 40th-ranked Urszula Radwanska of Poland. Williams last exited Roland Garros in the first round 12 years ago.

After the 3 hour, 19 minute match, filled with ebbs and flows, a reporter asked whether it crossed the 32-year-old Williams’ mind that this might have been the last French Open of her career.

“If it’s the last match, I’ll let you know,” she answered. “That’s pretty much how it works.”

Still adjusting to living with an energy-sapping autoimmune disease she revealed in August 2011, Williams now has two first-round losses in the past four Grand Slam tournaments. Her defeat at Wimbledon last June was the first time she’d left a major championship that early since she lost in the first round of the Australian Open six years earlier.

“With what I’ve gone through, it’s not easy. But I’m strong, and I’m a fighter. You know, I don’t think I’m just playing for me now. I think I’m playing for a lot of people who haven’t felt well,” the American said. “I think for me today it’s a positive to be able to play three hours.”

Inflammation in her lower back limited Williams to two matches over the previous one and one-half months, preparation she called, with a chuckle, “extremely un-ideal.”

“I can’t really serve very hard. It’s painful when I do that. But I’m getting better. I just, you know, ran out of time to get better for this tournament,” said Williams, who was broken 11 of the 17 times she served Sunday. “My strategy was more or less to put the ball in, and that’s very difficult for me, too, because that’s not who I am. But that’s all I had.”

This result came a year after she lost in the second round at Roland Garros to Radwanska’s older sister, Agnieszka, the 2012 Wimbledon runner-up. Agnieszka is seeded fourth at the French Open and will play her first-round match yesterday against Shahar Peer of Israel.

Others in action on Day 2 include seven-time champion Rafael Nadal, and the past two winners of the women’s title, Maria Sharapova and Li Na.

Serena made a fluent return to the clay-court tournament in the early afternoon Sunday, overwhelming 74th-ranked Anna Tatishvili, 6-0, 6-1 - and then addressing an appreciative audience at Court Philippe Chatrier in the local language.

Magnifique!

“I have been speaking French for years and years, but I don’t really have a lot of confidence,” Serena said later, in English. “It’s way, way more nerve-racking than playing tennis.”

AP

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