Serena Williams advanced to the third round of the French Open Wednesday, but faced a stiff challenge in overcoming with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 win Wednesday over Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu, the 174th-ranked player in the world.
The 23-time major champion Williams — who is seeded seventh this year at Roland Garros, where she is a three-time champion — endured in just over two hours mainly thanks to her serve.
Although she was forced to three sets, the 39-year-old Williams said she was much happier with her serve Wednesday than in her first-round win Monday.
In the second-round, Williams won 75 percent of the points played behind her first serve.
“I felt it was pretty good today, but I’ve been practicing my serve a lot,” she said. “I’ve been playing in practice unbelievable on my serve … I’m glad it came better today.”
Williams will face fellow American Danielle Collins on Friday in the third round after the St. Petersburg, Fla., native needed only 64 minutes to brush aside Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine 6-0, 6-2.
Also Wednesday, Daria Kasatkina of Russia upset No. 10 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, 6-2, 6-2, to move into the third round of a major for the first time since Wimbledon 2018. She will next play Sorana Cirstea of Romania, who outlasted Martina Trevisan of Italy 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
Bencic’s loss means there are no Top 20 players remaining in the bottom quarter of the bracket, which had previous seen exits from No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka, No. 6 Bianca Andreescu and No. 16 Kiki Bertens.
No. 15 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus reached the third round for the first time since 2015 when she beat Danish teenager Clara Tauson 7-5, 6-4. The 31-year-old Azarenka, who was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2012, needed an hour and 48 minutes to get past Tauson, 18.
Azarenka will next face 23rd-seeded American Madison Keys in the third round. Keys also beat an 18-year-old player Wednesday, defeating Leylah Fernandez of Canada, 6-1, 7-5.
No. 20 seed Marketa Vondrousova made quick work of Harmony Tan of France 6-1, 6-3, and has a path all the way to the semifinals with no higher-seeded players in her way. In the third round, Vondrousova will face Polona Hercog of Slovenia, who beat Caroline Garcia of France 7-5, 6-4.
Czech Katerina Siniakova came through a two-hour, 52-minute battle to bump off No. 29 seed Veronika Kudermetova 7-6 (7), 5-7, 7-5. Siniakova overcame a 5-2 deficit to win the first set, and then rallied from a 5-1 down in the third to advance to the third round of Roland Garros for the fourth year in a row.
Siniakova will face Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, who recorded a 6-4, 6-1 triumph over of Madison Brengle. Zidansek had upset Andreescu in the first round.
No. 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia 6-2, 6-3, and in the third round will face Aryna Sablenka, who downed fellow Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-5, 6-3.
Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan defeated Nao Hibino of Japan 6-3, 6-1 and will take on qualifier Elena Vesnina, who reached the third round when 11th-seeded Petra Kvitova withdrew due to an ankle injury.
–Field Level Media