Serena Williams overcame a wobble in the second set against Mihaela Buzarnescu to battle through in three sets and reach the third round in Paris.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion prevailed 6-3 5-7 6-1 in two hours and three minutes after a frustrating and at times uncomfortable evening against the 174th ranked Romanian on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
When the American took the opening set 6-3 it appeared as though she was in command, but the 33-year-old Buzarnescu responded very impressively to take the second 7-5. However, the third set was far more comfortable for Serena as she closed out the win.
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The server was dominant until the sixth game of the opening set when Williams hit back from 30-0 down to earn a first break point from deuce. The American could not convert and that would become a feature of the match as Buzarnescu finished a tricky game with a blistering backhand winner.
Williams continued to look the more likely to find the breakthrough and she duly got it in game eight when a scorching forehand set up two break points. She only needed one as the Romanian coughed up the break at a crucial moment with an unfortunate double fault. The three-time Roland Garros champion made no mistake serving out an efficient set in just 31 minutes courtesy of a quick-fire love hold.
Buzarnescu looked on the verge of imploding in the opening game of Set 2 but rallied to hold after a pair of double faults gave the number seven seed a big opportunity to maintain her momentum.
It was deja vu at 2-2 but again Williams was not ruthless enough and her opponent wriggled free with a wonderful drop shot. Buzarnescu’s resilience paid off as she took advantage of a real lull from the former world number one to break from deuce after Williams had surged back to save triple break point.
As has so often been the case in her glittering career, the opponent must beware the wounded American and she immediately hit back, letting out a trademark roar before consolidating to make 4-4.
However, Williams continued to waste break opportunities and Buzarnescu pounced in the 12th game when she sizzled a backhand winner to force a decider after Williams had coughed up set point with a miscue caused by an unfortunate flick off the net.
The Romanian was riding the crest of a wave but came crashing down with a bump in the opening game of Set 3 when she gifted an immediate break to Williams with an untimely double fault. The number seven seed then survived two close calls on her own serve before her power paid real dividends in helping her to snare the double break.
Buzarnescu’s rapid movement and punchy groundstrokes continued to cause her some concern right to the end, but the former world number one was not to be denied and broke to love to claim victory.
Williams, who is targeting a first Roland Garros title since 2015, will now meet her compatriot, Danielle Collins in round three.
'Mighty hard to beat!' - Serena storms to first set against Buzarnescu
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Watch all the action from the 2021 French Open live on Eurosport, eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport app with 13-time champion Rafael Nadal eyeing a remarkable 14th title and 2020 Roland Garros sensation Iga Swiatek aiming to replicate her stunning triumph.
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