Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka shakes rust at French Open
Roger Federer cruises in opener
Top-ranked Victoria Azarenka turned it on when she had to Monday, winning 12 of the final 14 games to reach the second round at the French Open.
The Australian Open champion, who took over the No. 1 ranking by winning in Melbourne, struggled for long stretches but came back to beat Alberta Brianti of Italy 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2.
"Sometimes I felt it was not my day. Sometimes I thought, `Yeah, maybe I still fight, I still have a chance,"' Azarenka said. "Sometimes it was like, you know what? Forget it. I don't want to do it."
Brianti, a 32-year-old veteran with one career WTA title, won the first set and then led 4-0 in the second before losing six straight games.
Azarenka had 60 unforced errors.
"I think it says it all. Bad days happen," Azarenka said. "Unfortunately today I had way more mistakes than I usually do, but, you know, it happens sometimes."
Djokovic, Federer win openers
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer managed less stressful victories.
Federer beat Tobias Kamke of Germany 6-2, 7-5, 6-3. The 16-time major champion equaled Jimmy Connors' record of 233 Grand Slam match wins in the Open era. Federer is 233-35 at tennis' top four tournaments. Connors was 233-49.
"That's a big one, because that was longevity," Federer said. "Jimmy is obviously one of the greats of all time and was around for 20 years."
The top-ranked Djokovic, who is trying to win his fourth straight Grand Slam title, never faced a break point in beating Potito Starace of Italy 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-1.
"It's just the first match here," Djokovic said in French on court after the match. "It's still a very long way to go before we talk about the final."
Defending women's champion Li Na also won easily, beating Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-2, 6-1. Last year, Li became the first Chinese player to capture a Grand Slam singles title when she won at Roland Garros.
No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, No. 8 Marion Bartoli of France, No. 15 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia and No. 19 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia also advanced to the second round. The 15th-seeded player on the men's side, Feliciano Lopez, retired from his match with a side muscle injury after losing the first five games of the first set to Florent Serra.
Former top-ranked player Lleyton Hewitt also lost, falling to Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia 7-6 (2), 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3. No. 7 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, No. 10 John Isner of the United States and No. 11 Gilles Simon of France made it through.
The strangest finish of the day occurred when Alex Bogomolov Jr. retired from his match when he was one point from losing.
The Russian was trailing Arnaud Clement of France 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 5-4 when he quit the match while serving because of leg cramps.
"My whole leg was straight. I couldn't bend it. I couldn't walk," Bogomolov said. "I didn't want to risk a potential ligament damage or something."
Azarenka was first up in the main stadium, and she didn't look good at the start. In the opening set, she had 28 unforced errors. The top-ranked Belarussian started the 2012 season with a 26-match winning streak. Her first loss came in the quarterfinals at Miami.
No top-seeded woman has ever lost in the first round at the French Open since the tournament began to allow foreign entrants in 1925. In the other Grand Slam tournaments, it has happened four times, most recently when Martina Hingis lost in the first round at Wimbledon in 2001.