PARIS, France – Serena Williams survived a scare at the French Open to extend her latest bid for an elusive 24th Grand Slam title with a three-set win over Mihaela Buzarnescu on Wednesday, while fifth-seeded men’s Stefanos Tsitsipas and world number two Daniil Medvedev also reached the third round.
The 39-year-old Williams, who has been one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record for most major trophies since 2017, overcame a problem in the second set to win 6-3, 5-7, 6-1.
The seventh-seeded American will play compatriot Danielle Collins for a knockout spot as she seeks a fourth French Open crown, but her first since 2015.
“It was a good competition, she was playing well and I was playing well,” said the former world number one, who retired injured in the middle of the tournament on two of her last three visits to Roland Garros.
Williams has already seen two of his most likely title rivals fail to start the tournament or retire under unprecedented circumstances.
World number three Simona Halep, who defeated Williams in the 2019 Wimbledon final, withdrew prior to the event due to injury.
The biggest story of the week so far has been the shocked retirement of world number two Naomi Osaka after a press boycott, saying she has been suffering from “bouts of depression” since her big win over Williams at the controversial US Open 2018 match.
Williams started well on Wednesday with a comfortable opening set, but paid for missing seven of eight break points in the second when world number 174 Buzarnescu forced a decider.
But he double-faulted at the break point in the first game of the third set and Williams made it to the finish line.
Tsitsipas sets early markers
Tsitsipas, considered the favorite to reach the final from his half of the table, made a strong display to get rid of Spanish Pedro Martínez 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
The Greek, who lost an epic semi-final to Novak Djokovic last year, will face American John Isner.
“We are here at a Grand Slam and it is a great opportunity … But of course it will be a challenge,” said Tsitsipas, 22, who has never reached a grand final.
He has won his last three meetings with Isner.
Medvedev bounced back from losing the first set to American Tommy Paul in style with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 victory.
The Russian, who had never made it past the first round in four previous appearances, will be looking for a fourth round spot against the 32nd seed from the United States, Reilly Opelka.
After a sloppy first set, the two-time Grand Slam runner-up was too strong for Paul, breaking his opponent eight times in 52nd place.
Sixth seed Alexander Zverev was in irregular form, but he did enough to beat Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin in straight sets.
The German, runner-up at last year’s US Open, will meet Serbian Laslo Djere in the third round after a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 7-6 (7/1) victory.
Zverev had had to defend himself from two sets down in his opening match against qualifier Oscar Otte.
“I am happy to have finished in three sets,” he said. “I am happy that I did not play another five sets. I think it will be important to me during the course of this tournament. “
Norwegian youngster Casper Ruud continued his excellent year by defeating Polish Kamil Majchrzak 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, while three-time quarterfinalist Kei Nishikori of Japan edged out Russian Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6- 2, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 at Chatrier.
Bencic knocked out by Kasatkina
In the rest of the women’s draw, third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka beat compatriot Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-5, 6-3 and will next play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
“I would say that today I did not have a great level, but I am very proud of myself to have fought no matter what,” said Madrid Open winner Sabalenka.
Swiss 10th-seeded Belinda Bencic was unable to improve on her poor record at the French Open by losing 6-2, 6-2 to Russia’s Daria Kasatkina.
Bencic has never made the fourth round yet in five appearances.
Former world number one Victoria Azarenka staged a third round tie against Madison Keys with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Denmark’s Clara Tauson.
The Belarusian’s best Roland Garros race was in a semi-final eight years ago and this is the first time she has participated in the third round since 2015.
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