PARIS (Reuters) - Former world number one Serena Williams made a triumphant return to Grand Slam tennis, defeating Czech Kristyna Pliskova 7-6(4) 6-4 in the first round of the French Open on Tuesday.
Williams recovered from 3-0 down in the tiebreak to claim an intense opening set before converting three break points in the second to seal the victory.
The 36-year-old American was competing in her first major since lifting her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open, having given birth to her daughter last September.
Williams will next face Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, seeded 17th, in the second round.
Twice champion Maria Sharapova overcame a mid-match blip to secure a 6-1 4-6 6-3 win over Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp.
Third seed Garbine Muguruza also progressed, beating Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6(0) 6-2 in a clash of former champions.
In the men’s draw, defending champion and top seed Rafa Nadal began his campaign with a rain-delayed 6-4 6-3 7-6(9) victory over Italian Simone Bolelli.
Resuming 3-0 down in the third set, the Spaniard roared back to force a tiebreak before wrapping up the win in damp conditions.
Earlier on Tuesday, third seed Marin Cilic looked in fine form as he eased past Australian James Duckworth 6-3 7-5 7-6(4).
Highlights from day three of the French Open tennis championships on Tuesday (all times GMT):
Play was suspended due to an incoming storm, with Frenchman Jeremy Chardy leading 7-6(5) 7-6(8) 1-1 against Czech Tomas Berdych on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro, a semi-finalist in 2009, recovered from a slow start to beat Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 1-6 6-1 6-2 6-4.
Women’s top seed Simona Halep will have to wait for another day to get on court after her first round match against American Alison Riske was postponed on Tuesday.
The rain delays over the last two days have resulted in several first round matches being rescheduled at Roland Garros.
Former world number one Serena Williams, competing in her first Grand Slam since winning the 2017 Australian Open, looked in fine form as she defeated Czech Kristyna Pliskova 7-6(4) 6-4.
“Two years has been a really long time since my last match on clay but I feel good,” Williams said. “I trained hard. I’m just happy to have a won match here. I take it one day at a time.”
World number seven Caroline Garcia produced a stellar display to beat China’s Duan Yingying 6-1 6-0 in 58 minutes. Garcia became the fourth Frenchwoman into this year’s Roland Garros second round.
Third seed Marin Cilic has urged for more clarity between the officials and the players to decide when the play can be paused in rainy conditions at Roland Garros.
“Just needs maybe a little bit more communication between, you know, the umpires or supervisors for the players,” Cilic, who won his first round match against James Duckworth, said.
“The difficult thing is that the balls are getting wet constantly, even though not necessarily from the court but when they go hit the fence or, you know, the covers are behind the court, they are constantly wet. It’s not easy.”
Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov said he was forced to take more chances with the new balls to tackle slower court conditions.
“The court was getting pretty heavy, but the balls especially, they were getting really fluffy and heavy,” he told reporters.
“But, you know, at the same time I felt like I played really well... really tried to dictate the first couple of games when they came out.”
British number one Kyle Edmund booked a place in the second round with a 6-2 6-4 6-3 victory over Australian’s Alex de Minaur.
1430 SHARAPOVA SURVIVES OPENING-ROUND SCARE
Former world number one Maria Sharapova won the last six games in the final set to beat Richel Hogenkamp 6-1 4-6 6-3 in just under two hours.
The two-time French Open champion will meet Croatia’s Donna Vekic in the second round.
Top seed Rafa Nadal, chasing a record-extending 11th French Open title, saved four set points in the third set to beat Italian Simone Bolelli 6-4 6-3 7-6(9) in the opening round.
The Spaniard recorded his sixth consecutive win in as many meetings with Bolelli. It was Nadal’s 80th win at Roland Garros and 105th in best-of-five matches on clay.
Third seed Marin Cilic backed his aggressive style of play to beat Australia’s James Duckworth 6-3 7-5 7-6(4) on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Cilic, who reached the quarter-finals last year, struck 47 winners to seal the victory in two hours and 13 minutes.
World number three Garbine Muguruza recorded a convincing 7-6(0) 6-2 victory over Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in a battle of former French Open champions.
Canadian teenage sensation Denis Shapovalov hit 32 winners to collect his first main draw win at Roland Garros, defeating John Millman of Australia 7-5 6-4 6-2.
Compiled by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris