Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams crashed to her earliest French Open defeat in 12 years when she lost 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (4/7), 6-4 to Poland’s Urszula Radwanska this morning.
The 32-year-old Williams, giving away 10 years to her opponent, had only once suffered a first-round exit at Roland Garros, back in 2001 when she was defeated by Barbara Schett.
It was only her fifth first-round defeat in 59 grand slam tournaments.
Troubled by a back injury in recent weeks, the 30th-seeded American had mounted a stirring comeback in the second set tie-break, clawing her way back from 0-4 down to reel off seven points in succession.
But the effort was too much for the veteran as Radwanska, the younger sister of world number four Agnieszka, took the tie on a second match point to make the last 64 for the second year in succession.
“I am still shaking,” said Radwanska. “It was a real long match and Venus was playing really well.”
Meanwhile sister Serena buried the misery of her 2012 Roland Garros horror show to storm into the second round with a 6-0, 6-1 demolition of Georgia’s Anna Tatishvili, the world number 80.
Serena, bidding for a 16th Grand Slam singles title, suffered her worst defeat at a major in Paris 12 months ago when she was dumped out of the first round by Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano.
But first-up in Paris in 2013 Williams was dominant, firing 27 aces to her opponent’s four, in extending her current winning streak to 25, the best of her career.
Williams, who won over the usual hard-faced Paris crowd by delivering an on-court interview in French, admitted that Roland Garros is the tournament which has caused her the most problems.
“It hasn’t been working out for me. I just think I may have gotten nervous in the past or may have basically choked a few matches away,” she said.
“Some matches I just lost because maybe I wasn’t intense enough or maybe I didn’t do enough work.”
Williams next faces France’s Caroline Garcia who, as a raw 17-year-old, was a set and 4-1 to the good against Maria Sharapova in 2011 before slipping to defeat.
Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 champion and 14th seed, clinched a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win over Croatia’s Petra Martic and next faces either France’s Mathilde Johansson or Chanelle Scheepers for a place in the last 32.
Italian fifth seed Sara Errani, the runner-up to Sharapova last year, had the honour of being the first player to reach the second round, breezing past Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus 6-1, 6-2.
The 26-year-old will next face highly-rated Kazakh teenager Yulia Putintseva.
Russian 11th seed Nadia Petrova, a semi-finalist in 2003 and 2005, was the day’s biggest seeded casualty, losing 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 to Puerto Rica’s Monica Puig, one of 15 teenagers in the draw and who is making her Grand Slam debut.