JUSTINE HENIN BEATS TSVETANA PIRONKOVA AT FRENCH OPEN

By NBF News
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French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Date: 23 May-6 June
Coverage: Live video streamed from 1000 BST on BBC Sport website (UK only) and BBC red button; commentary on BBC 5 live sports extra; also live on Eurosport; text commentary on BBC Sport website Details of BBC coverage

Henin turned on the style when she needed to in the second set

Justine Henin beat Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4 6-3 to reach the second round in her first appearance at the French Open since winning her fourth title in 2007.

The 27-year-old Belgian, who ended her 20-month retirement in January, edged the first set and was 2-0 up in the next before Pironkova recovered.

The Bulgarian won three successive games but Henin hit back for victory.

Japan's Kimiko Date-Krumm, 39, produced a huge shock with a 3-6 6-4 7-5 win over former number one Dinara Safina.

The 1995 semi-finalist, who made her Roland Garros debut in 1989 when Safina was three, struggled in the first set but soon settled to stun the 2008 and 2009 finalist in two hours and 34 minutes.

The victory meant Date-Krumm became the second oldest player behind Britain's Virginia Wade [who won in 1985] to win a main draw women's singles match in Paris since the game turned professional.

“I tried my best and proved to myself what I can do. I'm very sorry for her but very happy to win,” said Date-Krumm, who came out of a 12-year retirement in 2008.

She will now will face Australian wild card Jarmila Groth in the second round.

Safina is making her way back after a serious back problem, but asked whether it had affected her in the match, the Russian said: “Physically I was feeling better than her I guess because she was the one who first started to cramp.”

Her serve was a particular problem but she refused to blame 17 double-faults solely on her back complaint.

“In part, yes, because I couldn't work on my serve until I came here basically,” she said. “At first I was serving pretty good but then I got tight, I lost the motion and I started to make more double-faults.”

Safina (right) is left shell-shocked after losing to Date-Krumm

Despite a minor wobble midway through the second set, it was a pretty impressive return to Roland Garros for Henin, who opted to retire rather than defend the crown she won in 2007.

The number 22 seed secured the first set after breaking in the seventh game and another break in the seventh in the second set helped her wrap up the win in one hour and 29 minutes.

On her return to Court Philippe Chatrier, nearly three years after beating Ana Ivanovic in the final on the same court, Henin said: “It was fantastic. I never expected to be back here again.

“When I woke up this morning I wasn't sure what the emotions would be. But when I got out there, a lot of things came back to me.”

The Belgian will play Czech Klara Zakopalova in the second round, with Maria Sharapova a potential third-round opponent.

Former Wimbledon champion Sharapova came back from 3-1 down in the first set to beat fellow Russian Ksenia Pervak 6-3 6-2.

The former world number one and a semi-finalist here in 2007, will meet Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens for a place in the last 32.

Meanwhile, 18th seed Shahar Peer from Israel beat Spaniard Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-1 6-4 and will next face Russian 21st seed Vera Zvonareva who overcame Italian Alberta Brianti 6-3 6-1.

Russia's Anastasiya Pavlyuchenkova, seeded 29, secured her spot in the second round with a 6-4 6-2 win over home favourite Alize Cornet, while Slovakian 23rd seed Daniela Hantuchova defeated Thailand's 33-year-old Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-1 6-1.