Paris, France – Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano came from behind to stun American great Serena Williams in a wildly-entertaining first- round battle Tuesday at the 2012 French Open.
The 29-year-old Razzano trailed by one set and 1-5 in a second-set tiebreak before charging back to shock the former world No. 1 Williams 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 in over three hours on Court Chatrier at Stade Roland Garros.
Williams headed to Paris as one of the pre-tournament favorites, along with Maria Sharapova, but wound up suffering her first-ever opening-round loss at a Grand Slam event (46-1).
After dropping the second set, the fifth-seeded Williams sat in her chair and fought back tears during a lengthy changeover, which saw Razzano take what appeared to be a bathroom break.
Razzano was down 5-6 in the second set before forcing a see-saw tiebreak -- which saw her win the last six points -- and winning seven straight games for what appeared to be a commanding 5-0 lead in the third.
But Williams managed to stay alive by winning the next three games to set the stage for a war of attrition that was the ninth game of the final stanza.
Williams saved a whopping seven match points, but also blew five break points in the final game, as the 115th-ranked Frenchwoman finally pulled off the stunner when the American sent one final backhand long to prompt a celebration by Razzano, who recorded the biggest win of her career in the process despite battling some leg cramps in the latter stages of the bout.
"I had to dig deep against a great champion and you could see until the end that she gave away nothing," Razzano said. "I had to go and get the victory. I had to be mentally strong, and I gave my everything."
The 2011 U.S. Open runner-up Williams piled up 47 unforced errors in the setback.
"I made so many errors today, which isn't the game I was playing in the past," Williams said. "That's life."
The 30-year-old Williams is a 13-time major singles champion, including a French Open title in 2002. She missed last year's French Open due to injury and hasn't reached a semifinal here since 2003.
Last year, Razzano played at her home major just eight days after her fiancee and coach Stephane Vidal died following a battle with cancer. He told her before he passed away that he wanted her to play at Roland Garros in his honor. She lost in the first round.
"I'm sure he's very happy today," Razzano said.
Meanwhile, the three-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova and reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova avoided opening-round upsets.
The second-seeded Sharapova dropped only 18 points in a 48-minute 6-0, 6-0 double-bagel pasting of Romania's Alexandra Cadantu, while the fourth-seeded Kvitova also had little trouble in a 6-1, 6-2 thumping of Australia's Ashleigh Barty.
"No matter how good or bad they're playing, you still have to win that match," Sharapova said after destroying the helpless Cadantu. "It's always about who takes their chances."
And Kvitova may have whipped Barty, but liked what she saw in the Aussie's game.
"She has a big serve with kicks and good forehand," Kvitova said. "She has very good touch."
Sharapova needs only a title at Roland Garros to complete a career Grand Slam. The Russian star has won each of the other three major championships once and last year reached the semifinals in Paris for the second time in nine visits.
"I feel like with every year I have improved and I enjoy it much more," Sharapova said. "I think I learn a lot more about the game and the point construction. I feel like I'm moving a lot better than I did years previously, which has helped me a lot in the recovery process within the point."
Kvitova denied Sharapova a second Wimbledon crown in last year's finale at the All England Club for her first career Grand Slam title and is trying to better her fourth-round result from last year in Paris.
Sharapova's second-round opponent will be Japan's Ayumi Morita, while Kvitova will encounter Poland's Urszula Radwanska.
Ninth-seeded former U.S. Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki, who opened the year at No. 1 in the world, throttled oft-injured Greek Eleni Daniilidou 6-0, 6-1.
The Danish Wozniacki will face Aussie Jarmila Gajdosova on Thursday.
Also winning on Tuesday was former French Open champ Francesca Schiavone. Seeded 14th this year after winning the title in 2010 and finishing as runner-up to Li Na last year, the Italian Schiavone eased past 41-year-old Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-3, 6-1.
Sixteenth-seeded Russian glamour girl Maria Kirilenko cruised past France's Victoria Larriere 6-1, 6-2.
In other action involving seeds, No. 22 Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova topped Hungarian Greta Arn 6-4, 6-4, No. 23 Estonian Kaia Kanepi dismissed Russian Alexandra Panova, 6-3, 6-3, No. 25 German Julia Goerges got past Czech Lucie Hradecka 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, and No. 28 Chinese Peng Shuai snuffed out Austrian Tamira Paszek 6-4, 6-3.
Several other women notched opening-round wins, including the aforementioned Morita and Radwanska, Britain's Heather Watson, Czech Klara Zakopalova, Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus, and Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova. Radwanska is the younger sister of current world No. 3 star Agnieszka Radwanska.
The second round will commence Wednesday, including matches for world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska. Azarenka will face little-known German Dinah Pfizenmaier, while Radwanska will take on former No. 1 star Venus Williams, who was the 2002 French Open runner-up to her younger sister Serena.
Also on Wednesday's schedule are sixth-seeded U.S. Open champion and 2010 Roland Garros runner-up Sam Stosur, eighth-seeded former Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli, 10th-seeded rising German Angelique Kerber, and 13th-seeded former world No. 1 and former French Open champ Ana Ivanovic. The Aussie Stosur will tangle with American Irina Falconi.