Serena defeats Barty, Halep cruises at French Open

Serena Williams’ triumphant return to Grand Slam women’s tennis continued Thursday with a victory over 17th-seeded Australian Ashleigh Barty at the French Open.

Williams rallied from a set down to claim the 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win in one hour, 48 minutes at Court Philippe Chatrier. She struck nine aces in the match and will face 11th-seeded German Julia Goerges in the third round in Paris.

Once again donning the superhero-looking black Nike bodysuit with a red waistband she wore during her first match against Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic on Tuesday, Williams struggled in the first set against Barty, committing 12 unforced errors. Barty broke Williams to start the second set, but the 23-time Grand Slam winner won four straight games to seize control of the set on her way to forcing a decisive third set.

“I felt like in the first set I didn’t play bad. I just didn’t make any shots … but I had all the right ideas like coming to the net and hitting all my shots. They just weren’t going in,” Williams said after the match.

“For me, that was kind of like a positive thing, because it wasn’t like I was playing the ultimate match. I was just making so many errors. I was like, ‘I’ve got to cut down on the errors, and I’ve just got to come out here and fight.'”

In the third set, Williams lost the first game yet again, but she won three straight, missed a match point up 5-3 and finished the match with four straight points in the 10th game.

Williams, unseeded due to her prolonged absence from tennis preceding and following the birth of her daughter, entered the tournament with a world ranking of 453.

Top-ranked Simona Halep had an easier go of it in her match, defeating American wild card Taylor Townsend 6-3, 6-1. Halep didn’t appear to show any fatigue despite playing on consecutive days after her first-round match was postponed Tuesday night.

“It was really tough even if the score looks pretty easy,” Halep said after Thursday’s win. “Her balls were really tough to return, because of the topspin and the forehand, it’s really, really hard. She’s a lefty, as well, so I couldn’t return my best way.”

Halep will next face Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, who eliminated American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-0, 7-6 (5).

Russian Maria Sharapova, the No. 28 seed, advanced with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Croatian Donna Vekic. The two-time French Open champion got off to a 5-2 lead in the second set before dropping two games on her way to sealing the victory on her sixth match point.

“In the moments when I need to come through, I did,” Sharapova said.

Sharapova will next face Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Pliskova defeated compatriot Lucie Safarova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 to set up the third-round matchup.

Others victorious on Thursday include third-seeded Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, seventh-seeded Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia and 12th-seeded German Angelique Kerber.

–Field Level Media

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