Henin, Serena win after rain delay

Justine Henin and Serena Williams both had to wait through more than five hours of rain to reach the second round at the French Open.

updated: May 29, 2007 09:36 IST
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Justine Henin and Serena Williams both had to wait through more than five hours of rain to reach the second round at the French Open.

The big difference: Williams struggled before her match was delayed, and Henin struggled before hers even started.

"I was playing more patient and I was doing what I've been practicing," said Williams, who eventually beat Bulgarian teenager Tsvetana Pironkova 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 on Sunday. "I guess it just didn't work out in the first set."

Henin, however, had little trouble beating Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-4, 6-3 on a day when only seven of the 24 scheduled matches even began at Roland Garros.

But she was annoyed with starting a Grand Slam tournament on a Sunday and the rain delay.

"The weather is appalling, and it's going to be the same throughout the weeks," said Henin, who is trying to win her third straight French Open title and fourth overall.

On Monday, 10-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer was to play against Michael Russell, with 2003 champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, No 4 Nikolay Davydenko and No 5 Fernando Gonzalez also in action.

On the women's side, Venus Williams was to face Alize Cornet. Jelena Jankovic and Nadia Petrova also were scheduled to play.

Sunday's early sunshine gave way to overcast skies just before play started at 11:00 am local time (0900 GMT). About an hour into the opening six matches, play was called with only Marat Safin having earned a win - he beat Fernando Vicente of Spain 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.

Winning counts

Henin was next up on center court, but she had to wait out more than 5-1/2 hours of rain before playing.

"Winning today is all that counts," Henin said. "It was a bit tiring to play in these weather conditions."

The top-ranked Belgian will next face Tamira Paszek of Austria, who was one game away from the second round when rain halted her match. She returned to the court and beat Aiko Nakamura of Japan 6-4, 6-0.

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

If Henin and Williams keep winning, they'll face each other in the quarterfinals - in what would be a rematch of their contentious 2003 meeting at Roland Garros.

In the semifinals that year, Henin beat Williams in three sets. Henin's victory sent her on to the first of her five Grand Slam titles, while Williams' loss ended a 33-match winning streak at majors.

They have played twice since, though not in France. Williams won both matches, including the final at Key Biscayne, Florida, in March.

Henin, however, was looking no further than her next match against Paszek, who took her to three sets earlier this year in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

"In Dubai it was a different situation, a different type of surface," Henin said. "But I can tell you that Paszek is very talented. She's a winner."

Safina wins

Also, Safin's younger sister, Dinara Safina, defeated Yuliana Fedak of Ukraine 7-5, 6-4. On the men's side, Potito Starace of Italy beat Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (5), and Janko Tipsarevic defeated Dusan Vemic 7-6 (3), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in an all-Serb match.

Williams, an eight-time Grand Slam champion who won her only French Open title in 2002, was broken four times in the first set, and again in the opening game of the second. But she soon found her rhythm and cruised past Pironkova by winning 12 of the final 13 games.

"I've never gone down in the first round," said Williams, who won the Australian Open earlier this year and is 30-0 in the first round of Grand Slam tournaments. "I can breathe now. My goal is to stay not losing in the first round of a Grand Slam."