'Palpable tension': Serena Williams thriller tops chaotic French Open day

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
Serena Williams (pictured) celebrates after winning a point.
Serena Williams (pictured) marched on to the Round of 16 at Roland Garros.

Serena Williams battled her way past a stern Danielle Collins to march on into the Round of 16 at Roland Garros on a day that saw the highest seed fall.

Williams willed herself to an impressive victory over Collins 6-4, 6-4 in a match that was described as 'palpable' between the two Americans.

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Williams arrived at Roland Garros with relatively muted expectations with just one win on clay in the build-up and having not gone beyond the fourth round in Paris in five years.

But the 39-year-old may now sense an opportunity thanks to her solid play combined with an exodus of leading names from her half of the draw.

Her victory over Collins, who was playing her first tournament since surgery for endometriosis, was a step up from her first two matches, with Williams' serve working better and her determination very apparent.

Despite plenty of tension, during a tense battle, the pair shared a warm embrace at the end of the match as Williams advanced to the Round of 16 at the French Open for the first time since 2018.

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Sabalenka loss sparks wild women's draw

Third seed Aryna Sabalenka's upset 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova leaves seventh seed Williams the highest-ranked player left in that half.

Following World No.1 Ash Barty and World No.2 Naomi Osaka's withdrawals, Sabalenka was tipped to go deep into the tournament.

But the Belarusian stumbled in the Third Round after a 4-6, 6-2, 0-6 loss to 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Despite a number of top seeds losing, Williams will need to improve a lot still if she is finally to win a 24th grand slam singles title but few have been better at playing themselves into form through a tournament than Williams.

Williams will not get ahead of herself, however.

"There's still a lot of matches, a lot of great players, as we can see," she said.

"There's so much depth in this game now ... you really have to fight for every match and nothing comes easy.

"I just needed a win. I needed to win tough matches. I needed to win sets. I needed to win being down. I needed to find me, know who I am. Nobody else is Serena out here. It's me. It's pretty cool."

Sabalenka has been one of the most in-form players of the last few months and won the biggest title of her career in Madrid last month but she has yet to make a real impression at a grand slam, failing to go beyond the fourth round.

Aryna Sabalenka (pictured) kicks out at her tennis racquet after throwing it to the floor during her loss against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Aryna Sabalenka (pictured) kicks out at her tennis racquet after throwing it to the floor during her loss against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Pavlyuchenkova will next take on Victoria Azarenka, who reached the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time since 2013 with an impressive 6-2 6-2 victory over Madison Keys.

Rybakina ended Elena Vesnina's comeback grand slam with a 6-1 6-4 victory. The Russian was playing her first major since giving birth to her daughter in 2018.

A weary Paula Bado beat Ana Bogdan after nearly three hours, hitting the winning forehand after fans had already been asked to leave for the 9pm coronavirus curfew.

Slovenian Tamara Zidansek is through to the last 16 at a slam for the first time after a rollercoaster 0-6 7-6 (5) 6-2 victory over Katerina Siniakova.

And Marketa Vondrousova, a surprise finalist in 2019, defeated Polona Hercog 6-3 6-3, while Sorana Cirstea saw off Daria Kasatkina 6-3 6-2 to reach the fourth round in Paris for the first time since 2009.

with AAP

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