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By Erik Gudris | @ATNTennis | Monday May 31, 2021

Serena Williams

Serena Williams, after her opening round win, expressed support for Naomi Osaka.

Photo Source: Getty

Three-time Roland-Garros champion Serena Williams got through a tough first set before securing her place yet again in the second round of the clay court major.

Tennis Express

The seventh-seeded Williams, playing in the first night match on Court Philippe Chatrier, secured her place in the second round with a 7-6(6), 6-2 win over Romanian veteran Irina-Camelia Begu.

In her press conference afterwards, Williams expressed support for Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the tournament earlier in the day after five days of controversy that started when the four-time Grand Slam champion announced her intentions to boycott the press during Roland-Garros.

“The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it's like,” Williams said. “I've been in those positions."

Williams pointed out that no two athletes are alike and expressed sympathy for the 23-year-old star.

"We have different personalities, and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I'm thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way she thinks she can, and that's the only thing I can say. I think she's doing the best that she can.”

Williams entered Roland-Garros on shaky ground, having played only three of matches during the clay court swing, and winning just one. Begu, a former top 25 player now ranked No. 74 in the world, proved she was capable of troubling Williams trouble from the start.

Williams managed to jump out to a 5-2 lead in the first set, but would commit a slew of errors in the later games, as Begu took advantage. Though Williams served for the first set at 5-3, she could not close it out. Begu found a way to draw out several errors and break to pull on serve with her opponent.

The first set eventually found itself into a tiebreak. Williams, after saving two set points, would go on to close out the set in dramatic fashion. Williams sent up a roar into the empty Court Philippe-Chatrier, now clear of spectators due to a 9 PM coronavirus curfew in Paris, after securing the 7-6(6) set with a swing volley.

Williams kept the momentum going in the second set. With a deft pick up off of drop volley, the 23-time Grand Slam champion earned an early service break.
From there, Williams kept her lead. She faced the most trouble mid-way through the set when Begu battled to stay level with her. A pair of strong serves from Williams eventually pushed her ahead to 4-2.

Williams broke Begu again for 5-2 and never looked back. On match point, Williams banged down yet another big serve to close out the 7-6(6), 6-2 win.

Afterwards, Williams spoke about what it was like playing the first ever night match in Paris.

Williams will next face another Romanian, Mihaela Buzarnescu, in the next round.


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