Kuznetsova lost the first six points and the first three games, then swept nine games in a row and beat Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 6-1 Sunday.
Seeded sixth, Kuznetsova arrived at Roland Garros with only a 1-3 record on clay this year, and she drew a dangerous opening opponent in Cirstea, a quarterfinalist a year ago.
The match began in a nearly empty stadium shortly after 11 a.m., and Kuznetsova wasn't ready. It took her 12 minutes to win a game, but she was in control after that, three times rallying to win a game after losing the first three points. Cirstea squandered chances to get back into the match in the second set, when she failed to convert all four break points.
A year ago, Kuznetsova beat Serena Williams en route to her second Grand Slam championship. But she has not won any titles this year and her record is 9-9, the worst of any top-10 woman.
Joining Kuznetsova in the second round was 26th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, who took only 46 minutes to beat Ekaterina Ivanova 6-2, 6-0.