Serena Williams was close to her best as she swatted aside the threat of fellow American Danielle Collins to reach the fourth-round of the French Open.
Williams, chasing a fourth Roland Garros title and record-equalling 24th Grand Slam, staged a second-set recovery to beat Collins 6-4 6-4.
The 39-year-old is playing herself into form on the clay, with her serve noticeably better than in her first two matches.
The only wobble came early in the second set when Williams lost four games in a row but, after urging her feet to start moving again, she reeled off five straight games to clinch victory.
Williams will take on Elena Rybakina, the 21st seed, next after she ended Elena Vesnina’s comeback Grand Slam with a 6-1 6-4 victory. Vesnina was playing her first major since giving birth to her daughter in 2018.
Williams will not get ahead of herself, saying: “There’s still a lot of matches, a lot of great players, as we can see. There’s so much depth in this game now, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing in the first round or not, 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.”
Aryna Sabalenka’s error-strewn exit to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has left the Grand Slam without its top three women’s seeds inside the first week.
World No 1 Ashleigh Barty was forced to retire through injury during her second-round match, which followed the much-publicised withdrawal of Naomi Osaka.
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.
That has clearly become a psychological hurdle and, having fought back from a set down against experienced Russian Pavlyuchenkova, Sabalenka struggled to keep the ball in the court, making 39 unforced errors in total in a 6-4 2-6 6-0 defeat.
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.
“All I can say is she’s great, obviously, very great player, great fighter,” Pavlyuchenkova said when asked about her next opponent, Azarenka: “She’s been proving and showing to everybody that she’s still got a lot of fuel, especially at the US Open.”
Slovenian Tamara Zidansek is through to the last 16 at a Slam for the first time after a rollercoaster 0-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 victory over Katerina Siniakova.
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