Serena Williams put her nervy start to the French Open behind her by thrashing Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara yesterday to step up her bid for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title.
The 37-year-old cruised into the third round with a 6-3, 6-2 victory on Court Philippe Chatrier. Williams will face Sofia Kenin for a last-16 spot, after her fellow American received a walkover following Canadian Bianca Andreescu's withdrawal through injury. "I'm very serious when I play, but I'm happy," she said. The three-time Roland Garros title winner had racked up her 800th career main draw win in a first-round match against Vitalia Diatchenko, which saw her unveil her "mother, champion, queen, goddess" logo on her playing gear, despite dropping the opening set.
A mouthwatering quarter-final clash with Naomi Osaka, who famously beat Williams in a dramatic 2018 US Open final, remains a possibility after the world number one's thrilling three-set win over Victoria Azarenka. Williams was back at her best on Thursday, hammering 10 aces and 36 winners past Nara as she looks to draw level with Margaret Court's all-time record of major singles titles. Her last Grand Slam trophy came at the 2017 Australian Open before taking a break from the sport to give birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia.
World number 238 Nara, who stands a mere 5 feet and 1 inch, showed some early resistance in a marathon sixth game that featured nine deuces, saving six break points to leave her illustrious opponent frustrated. But 10th seed Williams did break in Nara's next service game, powering a forehand return past the world number 238, before serving out the opening set with ease. The match was as good as over as a serious contest just three games into the second set, when Williams took advantage of her third break point to claim a 2-1 lead. And Williams cantered through as Nara wilted, sealing the win on her second match point with an ace.