Paris:As rain delayed the start of what would be Venus Williams' first victory in a Grand Slam match in 11 months, video screens atop Court Philippe Chatrier showed footage from her 2002 French Open final against younger sister Serena.
Ah, how things have changed. Back then, Williams played Williams for the championship at major after major. These days, because of injuries and other issues, it's an accomplishment when both manage to show up.
So Venus Williams simply was happy to be there Monday at this French Open, and she played that way at times, too. Eventually, she asserted herself enough against French wild-card entry Alize Cornet for a 6-4, 6-3 win that put the Williams siblings in the second round at a Grand Slam for the first time since 2005.
"The most important thing is that I'm on tour, and as long as I'm on tour, I feel like really good things can happen to me," said Venus, who played only two matches from July 2006 to February 2007 because of a left wrist injury. "So it's just important for me to stay in the tournaments and be healthy."
Once ranked No 1, and an owner of five major titles, she is seeded only 26th in Paris. Her next opponent, 80th-ranked Ashley Harkleroad of the United States, provided a succinct assessment of where Venus stands.
"She's not dominating like she used to," Harkleroad said, "so it's better to play her now than then, right?"
Because of showers, only seven of 65 scheduled matches were finished on Monday - the same number completed on Sunday, when 2002 champion Serena won. She showed up at her big sister's match wearing sunglasses despite the clouds and a scarf wrapped around her head. They haven't entered the same major since the 2006 Australian Open and, as Venus put it: "There's no one to practice with like Serena Williams."
Venus' match began three hours late, and rain returned just as she won, interrupting play elsewhere for another hour. Matches later resumed for about an hour before play was suspended for the day.
Harkleroad is 4-0 in the first round at the French Open but has never been past the third.
"Golly, one round. It's great," she said. "But it would be nice to win more than just a round."
To do that, she'll need to get past Venus, who won both of their previous encounters 6-2, 6-1.
If it's true, as is often said, that scores can be deceiving, Venus' result on Monday against the 17-year-old Cornet surely was.
"When you have the chance to play Venus, who I've seen play so many times on television over the years," the 118th-ranked Cornet said, "then you tell yourself you have to give it your all."
Venus was forced to deal with 10 break points, including at least one in each of six consecutive service games during one stretch.
At 4-4, 30-40, Cornet was one point from serving for the first set when she hit a forehand that caught the net tape but dribbled back onto her side. In the next game, Cornet was a point from 5-5 - and she actually had won more points until then, 30-29.
That's when Venus, playing with both wrists heavily taped, slid across the clay for a backhand volley winner, then forced Cornet into an errant backhand, and ended the set with a cross-court forehand that plopped right on a line.
Precisely the type of play she produced regularly when she and Serena played all-in-the-family finals at six out of eight Grand Slams from 2001-03.
"I'm a winner, and I'm used to winning most matches," Venus said. "So, definitely, losing ... is like a foreign feeling."