Serena escapes as women's seeds continue to fall
By Martyn Herman
PARIS (Reuters) - The pre-tournament shortlist of favorites for the French Open women's crown continued to shrink and for a while on Thursday it looked as though top seed, Serena Williams, would also vanish.
Shortly after former world number one Caroline Wozniacki was knocked out by Julia Goerges, meaning the third, fifth and sixth seeds had all gone before round three, Williams, 33, faced unheralded 21-year-old German Anna-Lena Friedsam.
It looked like a mismatch but 105th-ranked Friedsam gave the 19-times grand slam champion a torrid time on Court Suzanne Lenglen, taking the first set before a nervy Williams recovered to scrape into the third round 5-7 6-3 6-3.
Twice former champion Williams has suffered at the French Open before -- last year when she was beaten by Spain's Garbine Muguruza at the same stage and more memorably in 2012 when France's Virginie Razzano knocked her out in round one.
With the American's groundstrokes sailing over the baseline and even her fearsome serve deserting her in the first set -- she was broken three times -- another blot on her incredible grand slam record loomed.
Even when she led 4-2 in the second set, Williams appeared shaky, going 0-40 down and dropping serve, but once she got level and broke Friedsam's serve at the start of the decider she relaxed.
"A win is a win and as long as you live to survive the next day, you can always improve," Williams said. "I know my level is literally a hundred times better than I played today.
"I take more solace in the fact I can play better as opposed to the fact that that's the best I could play -- then I would be in trouble." Continued...