PARIS // Sania Mirza made a winning return to the French Open today and said she was simply happy to be playing again after missing last year's event with a career-threatening wrist injury.
The 24-year-old world number 72 from India comfortably beat Germany's Kristina Barrois 6-3, 6-3 in the first-round to set up an encounter with either the Polish No 12 seed Agnieszka Radwanska or Patricia Mayr-Achleitner of Austria.
"Last year I was out for five and a half months," said Mirza. "Forget people writing me off, the doctors said I'd probably never be able to play again because the extent of the injury was so bad.
"For me to be competing again, when I thought I'd never be playing tennis again ... Winning is a bonus. Just competing at this level again and to know that I still belong here, I feel really happy.
"I love playing tennis and I enjoy competing. I missed coming here.
"It was really hard when I was at home. I hardly watched any matches last year when I was injured. It's even more depressing, because you want to be there but you can't."
Having climbed as high as 27 in the women's world rankings, Mirza's injury-enforced absence saw her slip to 166th by the end of 2010.
Now moving in the right direction again, she revealed that the thought of treading the famous clay at Roland Garros had been one of the motivating factors behind her rehabilitation.
"It's not about the glamour and the prestige," explained Mirza, who has never gone beyond the second round at the Paris grand slam.
"It's about the tennis for me. For a tennis player, when you pick up a tennis racket, you want to play Slams.
"I was written off, I'd dropped outside 150. At the start of the year I was 160, I think, and my goal was to be in the main draw at the French Open, so I've achieved one goal so far."
Elsewhere at Roland Garros, the men's No 3 seed Roger Federer advances to second-round with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) win over Spain's Feliciano Lopez, while the No 6 seed Tomas Berdych makes the first shock-exit after losing to French qualifier Stephane Robert 3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 9-7.
Berdych, who reached the French Open semi-finals last year, held a match point while leading 5-4 in the third set, but Robert saved it and then held serve. It was the 31-year-old Robert's second win at a grand slam tournament and his second victory of the season.