French Open 2018: Serena Williams Overcomes Ashleigh Barty
The American will now meet 11th seed Julia Goerges in the last 32
In a stirring display of fighting spirit, Serena Williams overcomes tough challenge of 17th seed Ashleigh Barty on Chatrier on Thursday at the French Open.
With her signature primal screeches and clenched fists, Serena Williams showed the world she is on track to regain her pre-maternity supremacy with her first win over a Top 20 player since her return from a 15-month absence.
That Top 20 player was 22-year-old Barty, the world No.17, who contributed her own brand of purposeful tennis to thrill an electrified crowd on Court Philippe-Chatrier as the evening shadow lengthened across the red clay.
Australian Barty, 22, took the first set, but Williams’ rhythm improved as she fought back to win 3-6 6-3 6-4.
Several times the chair umpire struggled to stop the surging undulations of Mexican waves and command silence.
This was the first significant test for the American, who has lifted the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen three times in 15 previous Roland-Garros campaigns, and the manner in which she knocked out the feisty Australian 3-6 6-3 6-4, in an intense hour and 46 minutes, proved she has not lost the ability or desire to dig deep and be ready to quash any challenger.
“I have definitely always had that will to win. It was something I was born with, thank goodness,” she said. “You know, this is a Grand Slam.
”This is my first one back. I want to do the best that I can. I want to be able to just do my best and one day tell my daughter that I tried my best. When I was out there, that’s all I was just trying to do, is just do that.”
Williams, 36, and now rather regally styled as “Madame Williams” by French chair umpires, is in the business of adding to her records.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion had previously faced a seeded player in the first two rounds of a major three times, and won on all three occasions. So make that four, as of Thursday.
Barty had enjoyed the best clay-court season of her career en route to Paris, and can consider this match a breakthrough in her achievement on clay as well as a psychological boost that will go some way to negating the horrible experience she sustained as a teenage wildcard playing Serena in the first round of Australian Open 2014.
Then, in the duo’s only previous meeting, Barty was beaten 6-2 6-1.
Barty started impressively, with focus and composure, and broke Williams to love to take a 4-2 lead in the first set, which she concluded in 29 minutes.
She broke again to love in the first game of the second set, and it looked as if that 2014 Melbourne experience could be avenged with a near mirror-image score.
The American, struggling with the slice Barty employs, was stringing together a huge tally of unforced errors.
But then, gradually, with feeling, the Williams warrior cry emerged and defiance became her trademark as she broke back twice early in the second set to level the match.
“I felt like in the first set I didn’t play bad. I just didn’t make any shots. So I guess that is bad. But I had all the right ideas, like, coming to the net and hitting all my shots. They just weren’t going in.
”For me, that was a positive thing, because it wasn’t like I was playing the ultimate match. I was just making so many errors.
”So I was, like, I’ve got to cut down on the errors, and I’ve just got to come out here and fight. And that’s what I did.”
The American will now meet 11th seed Julia Goerges in the last 32 after the German beat former French Open quarter-finalist Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium 7-5 7-6 (7-5).