PARIS - Venus Williams was cruising along with a ho-hum 6-3, 4-1 lead over her 35-year-old opponent at the French Open yesterday when suddenly everything went awry.
The double faults piled up. The forehand errors did, too, and Williams lost six consecutive games to fall behind as a drizzle fell. The crowd was rooting for the underdog, applauding in unison every time 93d-ranked Tzipora Obziler of Israel won a point.
When the eighth-seeded Williams would hit a winner, the sounds of approval emanated mainly from her personal guests. "Whooo!" one of her sisters kept yelling.
"I told the people in our box, 'Be quiet so she can concentrate,' " said Williams' father and coach, Richard. "Venus is a great thinker and a great player. I wasn't nervous at all."
Eventually, Williams, a six-time major champion, turned things back around quickly enough to pull out a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 victory and reach the second round at Roland Garros Stadium before the rain grew heavier and washed out the latter part of the day's schedule.
"I'm glad at the end that I figured it out," Williams said.
Rafael Nadal of Spain, the three-time defending men's champion, was supposed to follow her on center court, but his match never began.
Among those who did play yesterday was top-seeded Roger Federer of Switzerland, who wasn't tested much in a 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Sam Querrey of the United States.
"You never think you're going to be the guy that's going to draw him when the draw comes out," the 40th-ranked Querrey said. "But someone has to."
The day's most significant upset was produced by another American, 106th-ranked Wayne Odesnik, who beat 29th-seeded Guillermo Canas of Argentina, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (8). The match lasted the minimum number of sets yet took 3 hours, 46 minutes.
"There's not too much to say. I think he played well," said Canas, who has lost his last six matches, all on clay. "I didn't play well at all."
The only other seeded man to exit on Day 2 was 17th-seeded Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, the 2006 Australian Open runner-up, who lost to Simone Bolelli of Italy in straight sets. Baghdatis always draws a big crowd at Roland Garros because he trains at a Paris tennis academy.
Another product of that academy is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 16-year-old Russian who won a Grand Slam match for the first time yesterday by beating Maria Emilia Salerni of Argentina, 6-1, 6-1.