PARIS, France – Serena Williams escaped fears of the French Open to extend her latest bid for the elusive Grand Slam singles title with a three-set win over Mihela Buzarnescu on Wednesday, while men’s fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and the world Number two Daniil Medvedev also reached. Third round.
The 39-year-old Williams, one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record for most major trophies since 2017, won the second set 6-3, 5-7, 6-1.
The American, seeded seventh, will play compatriot Daniel Collins for a last-16 berth as she seeks a fourth French Open crown, but for the first time since 2015.
“It was good competition, she was playing well and I was playing well,” said the former world number one, who has pulled back an injury mid-tournament in two of his last three visits to Roland Garros.
Williams has already seen two of their potential title rivals either fail to start the tournament or crash out in unprecedented circumstances.
World number three Simona Halep, who defeated Williams in the 2019 Wimbledon final, withdrew from the tournament due to injury.
The biggest story of the week so far is the return of world number two Naomi Osaka after a press boycott, saying she has been suffering from “bouts of depression” since her breakthrough over Williams in the controversial 2018 US Open showpiece match .
Williams got off to a good start on Wednesday with a comfortable opening set but it paid off for missing seven of eight break points in the second as world number 174 Buzarnescu forced a decider.
But she made a double fault at break point in the first game of the third set and Williams reached the finish line.
Tsitsipas gives early marker
Tsitsipas, considered a favorite to reach the final from his half-draw, put up a strong performance to beat Pedro Martínez of Spain 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
The Greek, who lost an epic semi-final to Novak Djokovic last year, will now face big-serving American John Isner.
“We’re at a Grand Slam here and it’s a big opportunity … but of course it’s going to be a challenge,” said Tsitsipas, 22, who has never reached a major final.
He has won his last three meetings with Isner.
Medvedev came back from losing the first set to American Tommy Paul to register a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 win.
The Russian, who had not progressed beyond the first round in the last four appearances, will take a fourth-round spot against US 32nd seed Reilly Opelka.
After a poor starting set, the two-time Grand Slam runner-up was too strong for Paul, breaking his 52-ranked opponent eight times.
Sixth seed Alexander Zverev was in poor form but did enough to see off Russian qualifier Roman Safiulin in straight sets.
German, last year’s US Open runner-up, will face Serbia’s Laslo Jere in the third round after a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 7-6 (7/1) victory.
In his opening match against qualifier Oscar Otte, Zverev had to withdraw by two sets.
“I am happy to win in three sets,” he said. “I’m glad I didn’t play another five-setter. I think it’s going to be important for me during this tournament.”
Norway’s young Kasper Rudd continued his impressive run with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Poland’s Kamil Mazchrjak 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 while three-time quarterfinalist Kei Nishikori of Japan beat 23rd seed Karen Khachanov of Russia 4- 6, 6- beat. 2, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Chatrier.
Bencic was knocked out by Kasatkina
Elsewhere in the women’s draw, third seed Aryna Sabalenka beat fellow Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-5, 6-3 and will next face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Madrid Open winner Sabalenka said, “I would say that today was not very good from my level, but I am really proud of myself that I was fighting anyway.”
Swiss 10th seed Belinda Bencic failed to mend her poor French Open record as she lost to Russia’s Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-2.
Bencic still hasn’t made the fourth round in five games.
Former world number one Victoria Azarenka set up a third-round tie against Madison Keys with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Denmark’s Clara Tausen.
The Belarusian’s best Roland Garros run reached the semi-finals eight years ago and is the first time she has made it to round three since 2015.
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