Not even a lengthy rain delay stopped the defending champion, Serena Williams who had the hard task to face home crowd favorite, Kristina Mladenovic on the third round of the French Open. In a match that lasted 2 hours and 13 minutes, Mladenovic put on a fight in the second set and almost forced the world number one to play a third set. However, Williams didn’t give up and ended up taking the match in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6.
Williams Gets the Break at the Right Time
Williams started the match with an easy hold to love, three of those points handed by Mladenovic errors. For the Frenchwoman, it was important to not lose her serve on the first games of the set when playing against the world number one that can be a hard task but Mladenovic stayed strong and held to level the scoreboard 1-1. It was Mladenovic who had the first chance to break after two unforced errors from the American.
However, the top seed didn’t stop fighting and was able to save the break point and hold her serve. Unlike Williams, the Frenchwoman didn’t struggle to hold. The fifth game was a mix of errors from both players, Williams again had to win a tough game on serve, this time without having to save a break point. That was a problem that the Frenchwoman didn’t have as she continued holding her serve without complications.
The tables turned when Williams hold to be up 4-3. The American had yet to get a break point, but there was no doubt that she was eager to get one and she showed it when she pushed Mladenovic to the limit in a tough game for the Frenchwoman that eventually hold to be 4-4. It was again Mladenovic who had a chance to break and serve for the set when Williams did a volley unforced error.
Williams' serve was in charge to save her again from the break. The Frenchwoman had two more chances to break but failed to convert them giving Williams the advantage to be up 5-4. Mladenovic had to serve to stay in the set, but soon found herself facing three set points, two of those which she saved but a forehand unforced error gave Williams the only break and the first set in 53 minutes.
Serena Williams overcomes rain delay, tiebreak, and a strong Mladenovic
The threat of rain was evident as the sky in Paris darkened. After three games and three solid holds, it was Williams who had the first opportunity to break Mladenovic but the Frenchwoman remained strong and didn’t yield. Williams had an easy service game to be up 3-2.
A double-fault and two unforced errors gave the American three break points, but just like she won them she lost them after hitting three unforced errors in a row. Mladenovic did a double fault to give the world number one another chance to break but reclaimed her serve with two winners.
However, unlike the first set, Williams had yet to face a break point. It was Mladenovic who now had to work harder to keep her serve, especially when she handed Williams another break point after a failed drop shot. A loud ‘Allez’ was heard from Mladenovic after she hit a forehand winner to save the break point. The frustration was evident on Williams’ face as she had failed to convert seven break points in all the set.
Mladenovic celebrated the fact of having saved three service games in a row to still have a chance to force this match to a third set. Despite the missed opportunities, Williams didn’t lose focus and held to be 5-4, hoping to do the same thing she did in the first set and break Mladenovic to win the match. However, Mladenovic had learned her lesson and for the first time in three service games, she didn’t have to face a break point. Both players exchange easy holds, forcing the second set into a tiebreak.
The drops of rain started to fall on the Philippe Chatrier court and the game was suspended before the tiebreak. Heavy rain would stop this match to resume until two and half hours later. Williams was now looking to finish this match on the tiebreak as Mladenovic was hoping to force this match into a decider.
The players came back on the court after a lengthy delay to resume what had been so far a quality match. In the tiebreak it was Mladenovic who got the early advantage, leading 3-0. However, the top seed managed to hold her serve and get two points to still be close behind the Frenchwoman. They shared an exchange of holds that still left Mladenovic on the lead 5-4. But the lead didn’t last long after a forehand and a smash winner from the American to finally be up in this tiebreak 6-5.
Mladenovic broke immediately to tie things at 6-6. With a strong serve, Williams got her first match point but she was not able to convert it. Nevertheless, Mladenovic hit a double fault to give Williams another match point. Two unforced errors from Williams made the American lose her lead and give Mladenovic a set point. The Frenchwoman was not able to consolidate the point and was eventually broken. On her fifth match point, Mladenovic hit a forehand unforced error to give the match to Serena Williams in what was a tight tiebreak. The American ended up winning the tiebreak 12-10.
Up Next for Serena Williams
Elina Svitolina will be the next opponent of the world number one, the Ukrainian comes from a straight-sets victory over Ana Ivanovic. This will be the third meeting between Svitolina and Williams and the second in a Grand Slam. In the 2015 Australian Open, Svitolina was able to take a set away from Williams. However, the American leads the series 3-0. Their last meeting was in 2015 in Cincinnati where the top seed prevailed in straight sets.