PARIS - Andy Roddick slipped, then kicked the dirt. He chirped at the umpire about a call. When an unlucky bounce cost him a key point, he waved his arms in disgust.
At the finish, he raised his fist to celebrate a French Open triumph.
Roddick's clay-court season began Tuesday, and he endured repeated frustrations on his worst surface before rallying past Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in the first round, 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
The match was Roddick's first on clay since he lost in the fourth round at Roland Garros last year.
"There was a lot of ugliness out there today," he said. "But, you know, at the end of it, I get to play again. You go into a day hoping to get through a day, and I got through today."
Seeded sixth, Roddick barely avoided losing his opening French Open match for the fifth time. Instead, he earned his first five-set win in the tournament since 2001, the first year he competed, when he beat Michael Chang in the second round.
No. 2-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain began his bid for a fifth French Open title by beating 18-year-old wild card Gianna Mina of France, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
Justine Henin took a big step in her return from retirement, beating Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, 6-4, 6-3. The match was the Belgian's first at Roland Garros since 2007, when she won the tournament for the fourth time.
Kimiko Date Krumm of Japan also made a successful Roland Garros comeback, beating two-time runner-up Dinara Safina of Russia, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. The 39-year-old Date Krumm is the second-oldest woman to win a match in the tournament. She ended a 12-year retirement in 2008, and was playing in the French Open for the first time since 1996.
No. 12 seed Maria Sharapova began another bid for the only major title she has yet to win by defeating a fellow Russian, qualifier Ksenia Pervak, 6-3, 6-2.
On the men's side, Robby Ginepri won an all-American matchup, rallying to beat No. 18 Sam Querrey, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-2. American Michael Russell lost to Florent Serra of France, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1.
U.S. men went 5-6 in the first round, an improvement over last year, when they went 2-7. Since 2006, only four have reached the third round.
Playing on center court for the first time since 2005, Roddick looked rusty at times against Nieminen, a veteran lefthander. But Roddick's serve saved him - he hit 19 aces and was broken only twice.
Henin extended her winning streak at Roland Garros to 22 consecutive matches and 37 consecutive sets. She hasn't lost in the French Open since 2004.
Henin rejoined the tour in January after a 20-month retirement, and though she is seeded only 22d, she is considered one of the favorites for the title.