Serena Williams made a slow but successful start to her latest pursuit of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-0 win over Kristie Ahn in the French Open first round.
World number 102 Ahn served for the opening set at 5-4 but Williams forced a tie-break she dominated before charging through the second set to book a clash with TsvetanaPironkova for a spot in the last 32.
The American star is chasing an elusive 24th Grand Slam title to match Margaret Court’s all-time mark, but clay is her least favoured surface.
An error-prone beginning from Williams left world number 102 Kristie Ahn serving for the first set before the three-time Roland Garros champion prevailed 7-6 (7/2), 6-0.
Williams, playing at the French Open for the 18th time, dropped serve twice as Ahn moved 5-4 ahead in the opener in a rematch of their first-round encounter at Flushing Meadows.
But the sixth seed forced a tie-break that she sealed with an ace after a 74-minute slog before charging to an ultimately comfortable victory.
“She played very well in the first set, it wasn’t easy for me and she hit a lot of winners,” said Williams. “It was important for me to stay focused.”
Williams seeded sixth here, has not gone beyond the last 16 in Paris since her defeat to GarbineMuguruza in 2016 final. Her last major came at 2017 Australian Open while pregnant.
Meanwhile, Thiem, the runner-up to Rafael Nadal in Paris the past two years, defeated 2014 US Open champion Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in their second meeting at a major this month.
“My level was good. I was very happy with the way I played from the beginning to the end basically,” said Thiem.
Having captured his maiden Slam in New York, Thiem is trying to become the only man in the Open era to win his first two majors at successive tournaments.
A steady display from Thiem saw the Austrian break Cilic six times under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier on another gloomy day at Roland Garros, pushed back from its customary May-June slot due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I really love this tournament, it’s by far my best Grand Slam tournament so far,” said Thiem, who plays American qualifier Jack Sock in the second round.
“I’m from Austria so I know how it is to play in these cold conditions. I love it when it’s not too fast. I felt well from the first moment I came here.”