Serena Williams put on an impressive performance on Friday to qualify for the fourth round of the French Open, with a chance to go down in history on the horizon.
On Court Philippe Chatrier, the 39-year-old defeated fellow American Danielle Collins 6-4 6-4, as the women’s draw began with some high-seed early-round knockouts.
Williams became one of only four Top 10 seeds left in the women’s draw after No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka was upset early Friday by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
“That felt really good for me,” Williams said afterwards in her post-match press conference. “Things were not going my way. It’s not like she gave me those games. I had to earn it and turn it around. That was really positive for me going into the next match.
She wants to match Margaret Court’s 24-grand-slam record, but she hasn’t advanced past the fourth round at Roland Garros since 2016.
Williams, a three-time French Open champion, was put to the test throughout the match by her countrywoman.
Collins was forced to defend break points and even a set point in a big-hitting, guns-blazing first set, until Williams was able to seal the set with an ace.
Collins appeared to be on the verge of collapsing after an opening break in the second set.
The 27-year-old, however, showed remarkable perseverance in the face of adversity, winning four straight games to take a 4-1 lead.
Williams seemed to wake up after falling behind, as she won five straight games to qualify for the fourth round for the 13th time in Paris.
“It was a bit disappointing after being up 4-1,” Collins said afterwards. “I think Serena played some really great tennis to come back. I don’t think I played my best in those moments. I just have to try to learn from it, hopefully do better next time and be able to close out the set.”
“I said [after the match] I’d love to see her win the whole thing and I’d be supporting her. I think we all admire and love Serena, especially the American players. It was pretty surreal today to go out there and be playing against somebody I remember watching at age 9 and 10, playing here, to be here, to be sharing that court with her, this experience. I hope that I can be a steppingstone to her winning another slam. It would be really exciting and cool, so I’m going to be following every point.”
Williams will now face Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 21 seed, in the quarterfinals.
There have been some high-profile casualties, in addition to Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty’s withdrawals, that have opened up the draw for others.
With Sabalenka’s loss on Friday, top seeds Karolina Pliskova, Bianca Andreescu, and Belinda Bencic have all lost.
Williams, who has won 23 grand slams, may never have a better chance of matching Court’s record, but she is looking to win her first grand slam title since 2017.