Serena Williams isn’t quite back to her best. Not yet. But on Saturday, she cruised past her toughest test since returning to the tennis court after giving birth, and set up another one.
Williams beat 11th-seeded Julia Goerges in the third round of the French Open to book a Monday date with 28th-ranked Maria Sharapova.
Williams, in her first major tournament back after a yearlong absence, won her third consecutive match, 6-3, 6-4, and advanced to the round of 16. And Saturday’s victory was the most impressive of the three.
Serena’s best match since her return
Williams won the first set with a strong all-around performance. She was powerful, as always. But she showed off some nimbleness to claim an early advantage. She rushed to the net to return a drop shot, and broke Goerges with a cross-court winner. She punctuated it with a grunt and a fist pump.
She won a second game on Goerges’ serve, and finished the set off with an overhead smash that bounced up into the crowd.
Williams then traded breaks with Goerges in the third and fourth games of the second set, but won a decisive fourth break in the fifth game of the second set. She cruised to victory from there, and celebrated with one of many first pumps, a smile, and a wave to the crowd.
After struggling and losing the first set against 17th-ranked Ashleigh Barty in the second round, Williams’ performance Saturday was a major improvement. Williams said after that second victory that she was “not there yet.” With every match, it seems, she moves closer.
The black catsuit was back
Williams broke out an awesome black full-body suit for her first game at Roland Garros, then brought it back for the second round. She was back in it on Saturday.
Williams had a great explanation for the outfit as well: “All the moms out there that had a tough pregnancy and have to come back and try to be fierce, in the middle of everything. That’s what this represents,” she said after round one. “You can’t beat a cat suit, right?”
Sharapova up next
Up next for Williams will be the most high-profile match and high-profile opponent since her return: Maria Sharapova. The two will square off in the round of 16 on Monday, their first meeting in roughly two-and-a-half years.
Williams is gunning for her fourth French Open championship. She’s also one major title behind Margaret Court for the most in women’s tennis history. And if her comeback continues to progress as it has so far, the 36-year-old Williams has every chance to tie and break the record.
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