Serena Williams, after mulling skipping French Open, rallies for first-round win

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Serena Williams considered daily whether to skip the French Open. She could have been sent packing after the first round on Monday.

Williams rallied to avoid the second first-round loss in her 71-Grand Slam career, topping Russian Vitalia Diatchenko 2-6, 6-1, 6-0.

“I didn’t play great in this match, but it is what it is,” Williams said on Tennis Channel after notching her 800th tour-level main-draw match victory. “I’m happy I got through it. I knew that it could go worse.”

It could have been the first time Serena and older sister Venus Williams lost in the first round of the same major. Williams, eyeing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, moved on to face Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara or Slovenian Dalila Jakupović in the second round.

Williams withdrew from her previous three tournaments with health problems, citing a left knee injury at the last two.

“It crossed my mind every day,” whether to pass on Paris, Williams said, “but I’m here. And to do the best that I can do.”

She played well save that first set, being broken twice in a row with 14 unforced errors. Diatchenko won eight of nine points on Williams’ serve at one stretch.

“I’m a little upset,” Williams said. “I’ve been practicing extremely well, and I didn’t play like that at all. I think I’m going to take a deep breath. I was also a little nervous today. Usually I’m never nervous. That also means that I absolutely love what I do and means I want to be out here, so it’s a good sign.”

Williams, 37, is taking her fifth crack at tying Margaret Court‘s record 24 majors. She made her Grand Slam return from childbirth at the French Open last year. In career match wins, Williams trails only Martina Navratilova (1,442), Chris Evert (1,309), Steffi Graf (902) and Virginia Wade (839).

FRENCH OPEN: TV Schedule | Scores | Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw

Earlier Monday, Rafael Nadal began his bid for a record 12th championship in Paris and Novak Djokovic got started on his quest for a fourth consecutive major trophy with easy wins.

Nadal was a bit shaky in the very first game against 184th-ranked German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, facing four break points, but he saved them all — and didn’t face another the rest of the way for a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 victory.

Nadal’s feared forehand was not at its dangerous best, accounting for more unforced errors (11) than winners (nine).

“I had my match plan and, yeah, some of the things, they didn’t work out well,” said Hanfmann, who played college tennis at USC. “But, I mean, that’s why he’s as good as he is.”

Djokovic also needed under two hours to reach the second round, running his Grand Slam winning streak to 22 matches by getting past 44th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

Upsets included former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who went out 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 to 68th-ranked Veronika Kudermetova of Russia.

Frances Tiafoe, the only seeded U.S. man at No. 32 and a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open in January, threw up a couple of times and his game came apart late in a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 loss to Filip Krajinovic of Serbia.

“Obviously very depleted and had nothing really in me,” said Tiafoe, now 0-4 at Roland Garros.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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2022 Ironman Kona World Championships results

Ironman Kona World Championships
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2022 Ironman Kona World Championship top-10 results and notables (full, searchable pro and age group results are here) …

Pro Women
1. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) — 8:33:46
2. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) — 8:41:37
3. Anne Haug (GER) — 8:42:22
4. Laura Philipp (GER) — 8:50:31
5. Lisa Norden (SWE) — 8:54:43
6. Fenella Langridge (GBR) — 8:56:26
7. Sarah Crowley (AUS) — 9:01:58
8. Daniela Ryf (SUI) — 9:02:26
9. Skye Moench (USA) — 9:04:31
10. Laura Siddall (GBR) — 9:07:49
16. Heather Jackson (USA) — 9:22:17
DNF. Sarah True (USA)

Pro Men
Race is on Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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Chelsea Sodaro wins Ironman Kona World Championship, ends American drought

Chelsea Sodaro
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Chelsea Sodaro was the surprise winner of the Ironman Kona World Championships women’s race, ending the longest American victory drought in the event’s 44-year history.

Sodaro, a 33-year-old mom to an 18-month-old, prevailed in an unofficial 8 hours, 33 minutes, 46 seconds on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“My mind is a little bit blown right now,” she said in a finish area interview 25 minutes later, standing next to her daughter, Skylar. “This is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective. … This is freakin’ incredible, but the greatest gift at the end of the finish line is my little 18-month-old.”

Sodaro was in fifth place after the 2.6-mile swim and 112-mile bike, then recorded one of the fastest 26.2-mile marathon runs in event history (2:51:45) to win by 7 minutes, 50 seconds over Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay.

Swiss Daniela Ryf, who was eyeing her sixth Ironman world title, led after the bike but faded quickly on the run.

MORE: Ironman Kona Race Results

Sodaro, whose lone previous full Ironman was a second-place finish at June’s European Championships (reportedly in the second-fastest Ironman distance debut in history), became the first American to win in Kona since Tim DeBoom in 2002 and the first American to win the women’s race since Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996.

She is the first woman or man to win in their Kona debut since Brit Chrissie Wellington took the first of her four titles in 2007.

Sodaro (née Reilly) was an All-America runner at Cal, then placed 19th in the 10,000m at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

She turned to triathlon in 2017, made podiums on the World Cup circuit (just below the top-level World Series for Olympic hopefuls) and moved up to long-distance racing in 2018.

At the half Ironman distance, she was fourth at the 2019 World Championships, her last major championship start before the pandemic, pregnancy, childbirth and a move up to the full Ironman this year.

“I’m pretty stoked that I think I maybe get to take the rest of the year off and be a mom for a month or so,” Sodaro said.

The pro men’s race is Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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