Ana Ivanovic used her champion's instinct on Sunday as she was made to sweat for more than two hours by a little-known Italian who had never won a French Open match.
While Ivanovic barely resembled the player crowned queen of Roland Garros 12 months ago, Andy Murray looked every inch a seasoned claycourt campaigner during a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 first-round demolition of Argentine dangerman Juan Ignacio Chela.
Ivanovic had said she would listen to US rock band Kings of Leon for inspiration before the match but instead of an uplifting track, she must have chosen the song "Crawl" and taken the message to heart in a sluggish 7-6, 6-3 win over Sara Errani.
The Serb stepped on court with her troublesome right knee strapped up with black tape and within the opening seconds of the match, when she was pushed from corner to corner by Errani in a 22-shot rally, Ivanovic knew she was in for a long workout.
"I kept my composure even when I was making a few mistakes. I knew I just had to work my way slowly into the match," Ivanovic, who converted only five of her 20 break point chances, told reporters.
"I just was happy to use the chances I had and finally win."
Although she is unlikely to dwell on her below-par performance on Sunday, Ivanovic was delighted to be back at the scene of her greatest triumph.
"There were a lot of memories that were dormant and they awaken, walking on the court," she said after registering only her third win on her favourite surface this year.
"This morning when I was warming up they were playing highlights [of last year's final] on the big screen. You always get a little bit excited watching that."
Unfortunately for 2004 men's champion Gaston Gaudio, there was very little to get excited about. Handed a wildcard into the Paris draw since his ranking has plummeted to 359th, he was bounced out 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 by Czech 18th seed Radek Stepanek.
"It's a pain in the neck to have lost today for this is a tournament that I love," summed up Gaudio.
Until this year, the highlight of Murray's claycourt career had been a third-round performance here in 2008. On Sunday, the British third seed took the first steps towards improving on that showing by outwitting and out-hitting Chela.
"I wasn't expecting to play that well and it was a bit surprising," said the Briton, who hit 55 clean winners.
Two former world number ones who are in the twilight of their careers also slid into round two.
Lleyton Hewitt had to duck and dive for almost four hours as he saw 55 aces whizz by him but found a way to send lofty Croat Ivo Karlovic crashing to earth in a 6-7, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.
Marat Safin began his final French Open campaign before retiring at the end of the year with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Russian-born Frenchman Alexandre Sidorenko.
Standing at 2.08 metres, 26th seed Karlovic has enjoyed putting Hewitt in the shade in each of their three previous meetings, most notably in the first round at Wimbledon in 2003 when the Australian was the defending champion.
On Sunday, the 50th-ranked Hewitt came back from two sets down for the fifth time in his career to cut Karlovic down to size.
Despite winning more than eight games on aces alone, Karlovic was four thunderbolt serves shy of equalling the all-time record of American Ed Kauder, who fired 59 in 1955.
While Hewitt was happy to prolong his stay on court to lap up the applause of the cheering fans, France's Mathilde Johansson was looking for a place to hide after she blew eight match points in a 2-6, 6-2, 10-8 defeat by Vitalia Diatchenko.
"At the moment, I just feel like running away. But we all make mistakes and this is an experience I'll be able to use for my future Grand Slam tournaments," said the 24-year-old.
There will be no more tournaments for Emilie Loit, however. The Frenchwoman announced she was hanging up her rackets for good following a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 defeat by Swiss Timea Bacsinszky.
Amelie Mauresmo's French Open dreams once again turned to dust when she was beaten 6-4, 6-3 by Germany's Anna-Lena Groenefeld.
Asked if she had cracked under pressure, the world number 16 said: "Don't know. I don't know. I don't know."
Spanish eighth seed Fernando Verdasco compounded a miserable day for the home nation by humbling Florent Serra 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 before French number one Gilles Simon produced a stirring comeback to beat American Wayne Odesnik 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.