Serena gets her mojo back

Serena Williams, of the United States, celebrates during the women’s singles second round match against Ashleigh Barty of Australia at the French Open at Roland-Garros in Paris yesterday
Serena Williams, of the United States, celebrates during the women’s singles second round match against Ashleigh Barty of Australia at the French Open at Roland-Garros in Paris yesterday
Image: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Serena Williams battled back from a set and break down to defeat Australia’s Ashleigh Barty 3-6 6-3 6-4 to reach the French Open third round yesterday.

The three-time champion and former world number one, dressed again in her all-black catsuit, is playing her first Slam since winning the 2017 Australian Open while two months’ pregnant.

The 36-year-old, seeking a 24th Grand Slam title, will face Germany’s Julia Goerges for a place in the last 16.

If she gets past the third round, Williams could face old rival Maria Sharapova for a place in the quarterfinals. “It’s just incredible,” Williams said. “I am so happy to be back here. I lost the first set and thought ‘I must try harder, I must try harder’ and then Serena came out.

“I will be back tomorrow to play doubles with Venus. I don’t mind playing singles and doubles – I will fight my heart out.”

Williams cruised through her opening round match against Kristyna Pliskova in what was a record 317th win at the Slams.

Sharapova, the champion in Paris in 2012 and 2014, saw off Donna Vekic 7-5 6-4 in a tie which featured 10 breaks of serve and secured on a fifth match point.

Former world number one Sharapova, seeded 28 this year, will face Czech sixth seed Karolina Pliskova for a place in the fourth round.

The Russian star is playing in Paris for the first time since a quarterfinal run in 2015.
She served a doping ban in 2016 and was refused a wild card last year.

Ten-time champion Rafael Nadal breezed into the third round and a clash against childhood friend Richard Gasquet.

Top seed and world number one Nadal, chasing an 11th title, swept past Argentinian Guido Pella 6-2 6-1 6-1, showing no signs of the brief struggles he faced in the first round against lucky loser Simone Bolelli.

Top seed Simona Halep reached the third round with a comfortable 6-3 6-1 win over Taylor Townsend of the United States.

Halep, twice a runner-up in Paris, will face Germany’s Andrea Petkovic for a place in the last 16.

Spanish third seed Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, was too strong for France’s number 257 Fiona Ferro, beating her 6-4 6-3.

Title challengers Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem struggled into the last 32.

Third seed Cilic reached the third round for the eighth time with a 6-2 6-2 6-7 (3/7) 7-5 win over Polish qualifier and world number 188 Hubert Hurkacz.

Thiem, of Austria, saw off Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2 2-6 6-4 6-4 in a match which had been suspended overnight after the third set.

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