Serena Williams cruises into third round of French Open

PARIS — Defending champion Serena Williams picked up a quick, clean victory to reach the third round of the French Open on Thursday.

Williams, trying to win her 22nd Grand Slam title to equal Steffi Graf’s Open-era record, needed only 66 minutes to beat 81st-ranked Teliana Pereira of Brazil 6-2, 6-1.

Shortly after that was over, Venus Williams entered the same French Open arena and won by the same score. She reached the third round for the first time since 2010 as the seven-time major champion, seeded ninth in Paris, overpowered 20-year-old American qualifier Louisa Chirico 6-2, 6-1 in 54 minutes.

The matches were very similar. Serena faced one break point; Venus zero. Serena compiled a 31-6 edge in winners; Venus’s margin was 22-6. Serena made 17 unforced errors; Venus 15.

“We’re unfortunately really focused on our match. And I say ‘unfortunately,’ because in a few years, we’ll be like, ‘Wow, that’s a great moment,” the 34-year-old Serena said. “But right now, we have to be focused on what we want to do in going out there and winning the match.”

Serena Williams had a 31-6 edge in winners in her second-round victory over Teliana Pereira.
                            Julian Finney/Getty Images

Serena Williams had a 31-6 edge in winners in her second-round victory over Teliana Pereira.

 

Venus agreed.

“We focus more on the match at hand, and we both have a job to do, and that’s to try to get to the next round,” she said. “We focus less on the significance of us playing and more of like, ‘Can you win this match?'”

Venus, who turns 36 next month, was the runner-up to her younger sister at the 2002 French Open but hasn’t enjoyed much success at Roland Garros lately — losing in the first or second round every year from 2012 to 2015 and missing the tournament in 2011.

“It’s a little surreal sometimes, because it has been so long. They’ve both been out here almost 20 years,” said their sister, Isha Price, who was in the stands for both matches.

“It was nice to have them play back-to-back and not have to move,” Price added with a laugh. “It’s so interesting that their scoreline was the same. It was really nice to be there for that.”

Each Williams next plays a French opponent: Serena against No. 26 Kristina Mladenovic, Venus against unseeded Alize Cornet.

Venus and Serena potentially could face each other in the semifinals.

In another match, Kiki Bertens extended her winning run to nine matches to reach the third round with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Camila Giorgi.

Bertens, who upset Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in the previous round, won the Nuremberg tournament last week as a qualifier.

Former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic reached the third round, too, hitting 35 winners in a 7-5, 6-1 win over Kurumi Nara.

“When I’m in a good position, I feel I strike it much better,” said Ivanovic, who won in Paris in 2008. “Today that was the case. And I knew I had to be aggressive and move well against her, also take time away from her, because she’s great player.”

Fifth-seeded Karin Knapp, No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky and No. 12 Carla Suarez Navarro also advanced, while No. 28 Andrea Petkovic lost to Yulia Putintseva 6-2, 6-2.

Bacsinszky, a French Open semifinalist last year, was broken in her first service game but rebounded to beat Eugenie Bouchard 6-4, 6-4.

Trailing 5-0 in the second set and with Bacsinszky serving for the win, Bouchard got back into the match, saving a match point and earning two break points that would have leveled the score at 5-5, but she failed to convert.

After making the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2014, Bouchard lost in the first round last year. From a career-high year-end ranking of seventh, the 22-year-old Canadian slipped out of the top 40 in 2015 and struggled with an eating disorder she says she has since conquered.

Bouchard attributed her early exit to her mind more than her tennis, saying “tennis is 90 percent mental” and that “the brain is like a muscle” that needs workouts. The 47th-ranked Canadian said her mentality used to be “my amazing strength” and that “I feel like I’ve not used that as much in the past year or so.”

In doubles action, defending champions Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova, the No. 2 seed, were eliminated in the first round Thursday by Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson 6-4, 6-3.