PARIS — The last time Ann Li had stepped onto a tennis court at Roland Garros, she lost to a 182nd-ranked Russian opponent in qualifying for the clay-court Grand Slam.
The loss had left a bitter taste and the 20-year-old American wanted to erase the bad memory on her return to the French Open.
“It’s funny because I played there on the same court with the same ref, too, last year,” she said Tuesday. “So, I was like, I’ve got to redeem myself.”
That’s exactly what Li did.
Regarded as a rising star, Li did not face a break point on Court 9, lost only six points in the opening set and hit a total of 17 winners to dispatch Margarita Gasparyan 6-0, 6-1 and move into the second round. In just 46 minutes, on her debut in the main draw.
Having recovered from an abdominal injury, the 75th-ranked Li is back to competition after a two-month layoff.
“I had to kind of step back,” she said. “I was in Orlando and took some time and really wanted to heal fully because an ab is a tricky spot. I had some good preparation on the clay there and when I came here I was really excited.”
A former runner-up at Wimbledon in juniors, Li is not a natural on clay, but she said she prepared well for the tournament and feels more comfortable on the slow surface.
“Last year on the red clay it was my first time here, so it was a little bit uncomfortable, a little bit unfamiliar,” she said. “But I feel really good now.”
The oldest woman at Roland Garros this year, Venus Williams failed in her bid to win a 271st match at a Grand Slam event.
Aged 40, the American veteran lost her opening match at the clay-court major for the fourth straight year, defeated 6-3, 6-1 by Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia on Tuesday.
A runner-up in the French capital 19 years ago, the former top-ranked player dropped her serve six times and hit 23 unforced errors.
“I guess it happened. So moving on,” she said when asked about her recent record in Paris.
Despite the loss, Venus will extend her Paris stay since she is scheduled to play doubles with 17-year-old Coco Gauff.
“You know, I think we’re hopefully going to be a perfect match,” she said. “She’s so extremely talented that I’ll definitely be expecting her to do all the work.”
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