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Serena Williams Rallies Into Roland Garros Third Round Tennis In Paris

Serena Williams of the USA plays Ashley Barty of Australia during their women’s second round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 31 May 2018. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON



By Richard Pagliario


Contesting her third tournament of the season, Serena Williams concedes she’s suffering a shortage of match play.


The three-time French Open champion certainly isn’t lacking competitive fire.


Down a set and a break, Williams brought blazing intensity powering past Ashleigh Barty, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to charge into the Roland Garros third round.


Beneath a slate-colored sky, Williams injected energy into her game flipping the script scoring her ninth straight Grand Slam victory.


“I just said I gotta be better, I gotta fight harder,” Williams told Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim afterward. “I didn’t want to go out like this. I was doing good, just making mistakes.”


The new mom flipped through her alphabet attack, targeting Barty’s backhand, redirecting drives down the line and even pulling out the serve-and-volley.


“I was doing all the right things,” Williams said afterward. “If plan A isn’t working I gotta go to B, C, D, E whatever.”


Returning from maternity leave, the now 451st-ranked American is within striking distance of the second week. Williams will play either Julia Goerges or Alison Van Uytvanck for a spot in the round of 16 and shot at the Maria Sharapova vs. Karolina Pliskova winner.


Showing no signs of nerves, Barty came out smacking her forehand with vigor while a sluggish Serena could not find her range and rhythm at the outset.


Ashley Barty of Australia plays Serena Williams of the USA during their women’s second round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 31 May 2018. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

Rattled by a jolting Barty crosscourt forehand, Williams double faulted to fall into a triple break-point hole in the sixth game. Spraying a forehand, the three-time champion dropped serve at love as Barty bolted to a 4-2 lead.


Spotting her serve effectively and ripping her forehand when opportunity arose, Barty burst through eight of points extending her lead to 5-2.


Summoning her competitive fire, Williams slid her second ace out wide sealing the eighth game.


Beneath the brim of her white Fila baseball cap, Barty countered the former No. 1′s fist pump with quiet “come ons” as she earned triple set point.


On her second set point, Barty went big and bold with a stinging second serve down the middle snatching her first set against Williams in just 29 minutes.


It was an unruly set from an out-of-sorts Serena, who quadrupled the 22-year-old Barty’s unforced error output (12 to 3) in a sloppy opening set.


Throughout her career, Williams has been nearly unbeatable in Slam second rounds, winning 63 of her prior 65 second-round matches in majors with one of those two second-round setbacks coming against then world No. 35 Garbine Muguruza in the 2014 French Open.


Contesting just her seventh Roland Garros match, Barty played with more clarity and control hammering out a love break to start the second set.


That deficit drove Williams to kick her intensity into a higher gear.


Amping up her shrieks and the pace of her shots Williams broke right back flicking a reflex forehand into the open court then roaring through her most commanding hold for 2-1.


Pouncing from a predatory crouch, Williams pounded a diagonal backhand return breaking again in the fourth game. Banging a body serve, Williams erupted with a fierce “come on!” looking and sounding fully engaged as she extended to 4-1.


Playing Barty’s backhand with greater authority, Williams drew some mid-court replies from the Aussie’s one-handed slice. On her third set point, Williams banged an ace off the BNP Paribas sign on the back wall forcing a decider after 63 minutes.


The 2017 French Open doubles finalist knew she had to stay in step with Serena early in the final set, but Barty misfired on a pair of forehands on game point then deepened self-inflicted wounds with a double fault. Barty pasted a forehand into net gifting the break and a 2-1 lead.


Pressed to deuce in the sixth game, Williams worked her way through it with forward thinking. Williams’ first serve-and-volley of the day and a smash helped her hold for 4-2.


Serving for her ninth straight Grand Slam win, Williams whipped a forehand down the line for triple match point. The 23-time Grand Slam champion closed in one hour, 46 minutes raising her arms in triumph after a gritty battle.


Twenty years after her Roland Garros debut ended with a loss to Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Serena says she’s still learning and moving forward.


“I learned I’m not there yet,” Williams said. “I have so much room for improvement. I’m excited to get that and keep improving by leaps and bounds.”

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