Serena Williams powered confidently into the fourth round of the French Open with a 6-4 6-4 defeat of fellow American Danielle Collins on Friday as the draw opened up enticingly.
The 39-year-old seventh seed produced a calm and composed display against a dangerous opponent and is now the highest-ranked player left in the bottom half.
Williams, seeking a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title, but first since 2017, will play Kazakhstan’s 21st seed Elena Rybakina for a place in the quarter-finals.
A hard-hitting contest featured 40 winners as Collins clearly decided her best policy was to fight fire with fire on Court Philippe Chatrier.
It appeared to be working when she forged into a 4-1 lead in the second set, but the response from Williams was emphatic as she pumped up the volume and the power to roar back to victory.
“That felt really good for me,” Williams said of her storming finish. “Things were not going my way. It’s not like she gave me those games. I had to earn it and turn it around.
“That was really positive for me going into the next match.”
Despite her three Roland Garros titles, clay is not always regarded as the best surface for Williams.
She is clearly enjoying being back on the Paris dirt though.
“I love sliding. Love the speed. I feel like I have a little more time to, like, just get to balls, just hit ‘em,” she said.
So far she is hitting them pretty well and with the likes of Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty, Garbine Muguruza and Aryna Sabalenka all departed and Simona Halep having been ruled out with injury, her prospects grow brighter by the day.