Third seed Aryna Sabalenka was dumped out of the French Open in the third round on Friday by Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, leaving Serena Williams as the highest-ranked player left in her half of the draw.
Williams sent out a warning to the rest of the depleted women’s draw with a dominant 6-4, 6-4 win over Danielle Collins to reach the French Open last 16 for the first time since 2018.
She will next face Kazakh 21st seed Elena Rybakina while Russian 31st seed Pavlyuchenkova, who beat Sabalenka 6-4, 2-6, 6-0, will meet Victoria Azarenka for a place in the quarter-finals.
Former world No 1 Azarenka, who stunned Williams in their 23rd meeting in last year’s US Open semi-finals, cruised past Madison Keys 6-2, 6-2 to reach the Roland Garros fourth round for the first time since making the last four in 2013.
In one of the most exciting matches of the day, Paula Badosa beat Ana Bogdan 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 after saving a match point and coming back from 2-4 down in the third set.
Sabalenka joins top seed Ashleigh Barty and second-seeded Naomi Osaka in exiting the tournament in the first week. The world No 4 is yet to make a quarter-final at the Slams.
Sabalenka had defeated 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova just a month ago in the Madrid quarter-finals on clay. However, on Friday she was undone by 39 unforced errors as her poor record at the majors continued.
Pavlyuchenkova was a quarter-finalist in Paris in 2011 while her win on Friday was her 37th over a top 10 player.
Williams, seeded eighth, had a slight scare in the second set when she fell 1-4 behind against 2020 quarter-finalist Collins, but won the next five games to secure victory. She thundered down five aces and hit 22 winners against Collins, winning in just 85 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.
When Williams last made the fourth round three years ago, she withdrew injured before a scheduled clash with Maria Sharapova. The former world No 1 also pulled out last year following the opening round, but she looks in strong form this time around, despite sporting some strapping on her right thigh.
The women’s competition this year has seen 2019 champion Barty retire injured in the second round. Reigning US and Australian Open champion Osaka withdrew after the first round having been fined and threatened with expulsion for refusing to honour media commitments. Simona Halep, the world No 3 and 2018 champion, didn’t even make it to Paris after suffering a calf injury.
Serena Williams (USA x7) bt Danielle Collins (USA) 6-4, 6-4
Elena Rybakina (KAZ x21) bt Elena Vesnina (RUS) 6-1, 6-4
Victoria Azarenka (BLR x15) bt Madison Keys (USA x23) 6-2, 6-2
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS x31) bt Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x3) 6-4, 2-6, 6-0
Tamara Zidansek (SLO) bt Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 0-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2
Sorana Cirstea (ROM) bt Darya Kasatkina (RUS) 6-3, 6-2
Marketa Vondrousova (CZE x20) bt Polona Hercog (SLO) 6-3, 6-3
Paula Badosa (ESP x33) bt Ana Bogdan (ROM) 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4
With AFP inputs
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