Italy:Venus Williams was taken to three sets in her opening match on Monday at the Italian Open, eventually beating Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
But the 28-year-old American, who won the clay court event in 1999, said she didn't mind the extra effort.
"I was OK with the match being a little longer," Williams said. "I just I want to hit balls. In a way it's not too bad to go three sets. "
Williams appeared in control of the match in the first set, firing eight aces and as many winners in 28 minutes. But as her service level dropped Safarova started playing deep powerful groundstrokes and broke Williams in the third game of the second set. Williams was unable to break back and Safarova served out the set 6-4.
"I just didn't get that break back," Williams said of the second set. "She played strong and she... is a talented player, so I have to give her credit."
In the deciding set, the fourth-seeded Williams held serve in a crucial third game after saving four break points. She went on to break in the following game, as a forehand by the 22-year-old Czech player went wide, and then again to close out the match.
In the end, Williams had 22 winners, the same as Safarova, and 26 unforced errors to Safarova's 33.
"We both played aggressive," Williams said. "She's just going for every shot, for the lines."
The match was a second-round encounter as the top eight seeded players all have first-round byes in this warmup for the French Open, which begins in three weeks' time.
Williams had beaten Safarova in straight sets in their only previous match in 2006, which was also played in Rome.
Also advancing in another second-round match was Victoria Azarenka from Belarus, who had just won the first set 6-0 when her opponent Ayumi Morita of Japan retired with a thigh strain.
In first-round action, Alize Cornet of France, last year's runner up, defeated Ai Sugiyama of Japan 6-3, 7-5, while Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark advanced with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Agnes Szavay of Hungary.
Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland beat Alona Bondarenko of the Ukraine 6-0, 6-1.
Anabel Medina Garrigues was the first seeded player to fall, losing 6-2, 6-3 to Anna Chakvetadze of Russia.