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Venus Williams beats old foe

PARIS - Venus Williams took the French Open stage dressed for a Paris production she hopes will run a full two weeks.

PARIS - Venus Williams took the French Open stage dressed for a Paris production she hopes will run a full two weeks.

Wearing a lacy black "Can-Can" corset with spaghetti straps and red trim, Williams choreographed a 6-3, 6-3 victory over longtime foil Patty Schnyder in the opening round Sunday.

Williams' 27-4 record this year is the best on the women's tour. Last week, she climbed for the first time since 2003 to second in the rankings, trailing only younger sister Serena.

"It feels good to be moving up the ranks," Venus said.

Defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova joined Williams in the second round, while 2009 quarterfinalist Victoria Azarenka was eliminated.

Winners on the men's side included Robin Soderling, hoping to mount another run at Roland Garros after upsetting four-time champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round last year.

There were whistles and catcalls from the crowd when Williams removed her warm-ups to reveal the corset she designed.

"The outfit is all about illusion," she said. "That has been a lot of my motif there year, illusion, and it's about kind of having that illusion of wearing lace and not having anything take away under it. These days I have a lot of fun with my designs."

Against Schnyder, Williams slammed 27 winners and won 12 of 14 points at the net. She also overcame an inconsistent serve.

On a hot day, Kuznetsova was sweating at the start. She lost the first six points and first three games, then swept nine games in a row and beat Sorana Cirstea, 6-3, 6-1.

Seeded sixth, Kuznetsova arrived at Roland Garros only 1-3 on clay this year, and she drew a dangerous opening opponent in Cirstea, a quarterfinalist a year ago. The match began shortly after 11 a.m., and even in a nearly empty stadium, Kuznetsova found herself a bit rattled.

"Definitely I was a little bit nervous," she said. "It was rough start for me."

The Russian needed 12 minutes to win a game, but she was in control after that. Three times she rallied to take a game after losing the first three points.

Soderling enjoyed a faster start, winning the first nine games. He dropped only nine of 58 points on his serve and defeated wild card Laurent Recouderc, 6-0, 6-2, 6-3.