LONDON (Reuters) – American Serena Williams survived a scare in the first ever night session match at the French Open as she edged out Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 7-6(6) 6-2 in the first round on Monday.
Organisers have introduced night matches under the Philippe Chatrier Court lights to provide some late-night drama for the fans but the match was played in an empty stadium because of a COVID-19 curfew in the French capital.
The flat atmosphere hardly helped the 39-year-old Williams who squandered a 5-2 lad in the first set against a tricky opponent who battled back to move into a tiebreaker.
Begu then led 6-4 and Williams got lucky with a return that clipped the tape, before rattling off four points to win the opener with a drive volley — producing a roar that echoed around the empty stands.
Williams, who has been stuck on 23 Grand Slam titles since 2017, was far more assured in the second set and managed to claim the win without further fuss.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)