French Open review: Heather Watson beaten; Serena Williams survives

Serena Williams at the French Open
Serena Williams at the French Open

A review of Thursday's action from the women's draw at the French Open as Heather Watson suffered a familiar fate.

Serena survives scare

Serena Williams came from a set down to book her place in the third round of the French Open.

The 36-year-old, who says her black bodysuit makes her feel like a super hero, had to call on some of her vintage super powers to get past Ashleigh Barty.

Australian Barty, the 17th seed, broke the 23-time grand slam winner in the sixth game and, when she served out the set convincingly things looked ominous for Williams.

After all, the former world number one had not played a major tournament since winning the 2017 Australian Open, having given birth to her daughter in September.

But from somewhere Williams got her serve firing and summoned up her powerful groundstrokes to blow Barty away 3-6 6-3 6-4.

"I lost the first set and I thought 'I've got to try harder'," she said. "Then Serena came out.

"Every day is a great day for me and I'm excited to play singles, or doubles, and fight my heart out."

Williams will face 11th seed Julia Gorges of Germany in round three.

Familiar fate for Watson

Heather Watson served up a limp display as she crashed out of the French Open.

The British number two won just two service games on her way to a 6-3 6-4 defeat to Belgium's Elise Mertens.

It was the sixth time Watson had reached the second round at Roland Garros, but she has still yet to advance any further.

Watson had breezed through her first-round match against France's Oceane Dodin, dropping just three games along the way. She also hit nine aces.

But the 26-year-old's serve deserted her this time, with five double-faults added to 37 unforced errors giving her a mountain to climb against anyone, let alone the 16th seed.

Not that Mertens was much better. The first set featured a staggering eight breaks of serve in nine games.

Mertens secured another 'crucial' hold at the start of the second before breaking Watson yet again.

Watson finally won on her own serve at the eighth attempt, and forced her way to back on serve at 3-4.

Both players held again but Watson had the task of serving to stay in the match, and given what had gone before it was not a surprise that she could not manage it.

"There were just too many errors today, and I was very up and down," said Watson.

"I would get on a hot streak and win a couple games, and then I would just make four unforced errors, and that needs to change.

"Also my serve. I had a low first-serve percentage and wasn't getting as many free points as I would have liked.

"The other day I served better than I normally serve. So I wouldn't say that's how I normally serve. I would say that was a very good day.

"It's just different conditions. Also, it's a different opponent. It's different serving after playing a 10-ball rally than just serving after somebody's just missed your return. So it's just a different situation."

Sharapova scraps her way through

If Maria Sharapova is to win a third Paris title she seems intent on doing it the hard way.

The Russian lost six games in a row during her first-round victory over Richel Hogenkamp and had to dig deep again to beat Donna Vekic in round two.

Serving for the first set at 5-3, Sharapova allowed the world number 52 from Croatia to break back before eventually getting over the line 7-5.

She dropped serve early in the second, and later served for the match at 5-3 again, with the same outcome.

However, Sharapova recovered to triumph 7-5 6-4 to keep her first Roland Garros campaign in three years on track.

Rain delays meant it took four days for top seed Simona Halep to reach the second round, but she made round three in just over an hour after beating American Taylor Townsend 6-3 6-1. She will take on Andrea Petkovic on Saturday.

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 Paris winner, had a more comfortable route into round three.

The Spaniard was rarely troubled in a 6-4 6-3 victory over French wild card Fiona Ferro to set up a meeting with Australia's Sam Stosur.

"It's always tricky when you face a young, talented French player," said Muguruza. "It probably wasn't the best tennis out there but I'm happy that I managed to fight and to win."

Stosur knocked out 30th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia.

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