Paris – Serena Williams survived a French Open scare to extend her latest bid for an elusive 24th Grand Slam singles title with a three-set victory over Mihaela Buzarnescu on Wednesday, while men’s No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev also reached the third round.
The 39-year-old Williams, who since 2017 has been one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record for Grand Slam titles, brushed off a second-set blip to win 6-3, 5-7, 6-1.
The American, seeded seventh, will next face Danielle Collins in her quest to win her fourth French Open crown.
“It was good competition, she was playing well and I was playing well,” said the former world No. 1, who was been forced to withdraw due to injuries in two of her last three visits to Roland Garros.
Williams has already seen two of her biggest rivals either fail to start the tournament or pull out in unprecedented circumstances.
World No. 3 Simona Halep, who defeated Williams in the 2019 Wimbledon final, withdrew before the event with injury.
World No. 2 Naomi Osaka then made headlines around the world when she withdrew from the event after a facing opposition from the tournament over her plan to not attend news conferences to protect her mental health. Osaka pulled out on Monday, saying she has been suffering with “bouts of depression” since her breakthrough triumph over Williams in the controversial 2018 U.S. Open final.
Williams breezed through a comfortable opening set on Wednesday, but paid for missing seven of eight break points in the second as world No. 74 Buzarnescu forced a decisive third set.
But she double-faulted on break point in the first game of the third set and Williams cruised to the finish line.
In news off the court, French Open organizers said Wednesday that a men’s doubles team had tested positive for COVID-19 and been removed from the tournament. The two players were not named.
“The Roland Garros tournament organisers confirm that two players from the men’s doubles draw, on the same team, have tested positive for Covid-19,” a statement said late Wednesday.
“In line with the tournament’s public health and safety protocol, the pair have been removed from the draw and the two players placed in quarantine.”
In men’s singles, Tsitsipas, regarded as the favorite to reach the final from his half of the draw, turned in a strong performance to dispose of Spaniard Pedro Martinez 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
The Greek, who lost an epic semifinal against Novak Djokovic last year, next faces big-serving American John Isner.
“We’re here at a Grand Slam and it’s a big opportunity, said the 22-year-old Tsitsipas, who has never reached a major final. “But of course it’s going to be a challenge.”
He has won his last three meetings with Isner.
Medvedev bounced back from losing the first set to American Tommy Paul in style, romping to a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 victory.
The Russian, who had never gone past the first round in four previous appearances, will eye a fourth-round spot against U.S. No. 32 seed Reilly Opelka.
After a sloppy opening set, the two-time Grand Slam runner-up was far too strong for Paul, breaking his 52nd-ranked opponent eight times.
Sixth seed Alexander Zverev was shaky but did enough to see off Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin in straight sets.
The German, last year’s U.S. Open runner-up, will take on Serbia’s Laslo Djere in the third round after a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 7-6 (7-1) victory.
Zverev needed to fight back from two sets down in his opening match against qualifier Oscar Otte.
“I’m happy to be through in three sets,” he said. “I’m happy not to have played another five-setter. I think it’s going to be important for me during the course of this tournament.”
Norwegian youngster Casper Ruud continued his excellent year by easing past Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Elsewhere in the women’s draw, third seed Aryna Sabalenka beat fellow Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-5, 6-3 and will next play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
“I would say wasn’t great level from me today, but I’m really proud of myself that I was fighting no matter what,” said Sabalenka, the Madrid Open winner.
Swiss No. 10 seed Belinda Bencic failed to improve her poor French Open record as she lost 6-2, 6-2 to Russia’s Daria Kasatkina.
Bencic has still never reached the fourth round in five appearances.
Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka set up a third-round tie against Madison Keys with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Denmark’s Clara Tauson.
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