PARIS — Even before Serena Williams quickly and easily seized control of her first-round match Tuesday, things were shaping up rather well for her at the French Open.
The No. 1-ranked Williams' bid for her 22nd Grand Slam title, which would equal Steffi Graf's Open-era record, began with a nothing-to-see-here 6-2, 6-0 victory over 77th-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia in all of 42 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Not that she wished it had been more of a workout.
"It was a little short for me, but I think in my career, if I don't have it by now, I need to look into something different. So I'm OK — I'm OK with that," said Williams, who took the last 10 games after a so-so start.
What happened earlier on Day 3 was more surprising — and perhaps just as significant for the defending champion: Two of the top five seeded women exited the clay-court tournament.
No. 3 Angelique Kerber, who upset Williams in the Australian Open final in January, lost to 58th-ranked Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. And No. 5 Victoria Azarenka, one of the only other two women who defeated Williams this season, bowed out in the first round, too, stopping because of an injured right knee while trailing 4-0 in the third set against 118th-ranked Karen Knapp of Italy.
Williams could have faced Azarenka in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, and Kerber in the semifinals. In the six major tournaments before this one, Williams was 39-2, with the only losses coming against Kerber and No. 7 Roberta Vinci, who stopped the American's try for a calendar-year Grand Slam at the 2015 U.S. Open but is done in Paris after a loss on Monday.
The rain that played havoc with the schedule over the first two days was nowhere to be found Tuesday, although the chill remained, and Williams wore leggings under her skirt and a zipped-up, long-sleeved top to shield her from the temperature that was right around 60 degrees (15 Celsius).
"I don't like playing in cold weather," said Williams, who compiled 25 winners and only five unforced errors, "but everything felt pretty good."
Her older sister, No. 9 Venus, also won in straight sets, thereby avoiding a second consecutive first-round Grand Slam loss — and a second consecutive first-round French Open loss. But she spent a lot more time on court, needing nearly two hours to get past 82nd-ranked Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).
The top-seeded man, Novak Djokovic, was not tested at all Tuesday, defeating 95th-ranked Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-4, 6-1, 6-1. And Rafael Nadal was so at ease in a 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 victory over 100th-ranked Sam Groth of Australia that the nine-time French Open champion even allowed himself a smile after a dazzling, back-to-the-net, through-the-legs passing shot winner in the next-to-last game.
No. 2 Andy Murray was never that at peace during his struggle of a match, which was suspended because of darkness Monday night in the fourth set.
Murray lost the opening two sets against 37-year-old Radek Stepanek, a qualifier from the Czech Republic who was the oldest man in the field, then twice was two points from losing while serving down 5-4 in the fifth on Tuesday.
"An extremely difficult match. Very tricky, challenging," Murray said. "Today was pretty, you know, stressful."
The two-time major champion did not make any sort of attempt to hide that feeling, engaging in his usual mix of gesticulating and grousing. Stepanek, meanwhile, was having the time of his life, mixing confounding drop shots and net rushes, and motioning to the crowd to give him more support.
In the end, though, Murray emerged to eke out a 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 win.
"I gave it all. I have no regrets. Obviously being so close, it's always tough to absorb," Stepanek said, "but to play on such a stage, in front of such a crowd, it's been a pleasure."
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