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French Open

Serena turns cheerleader for sister Venus Williams at French Open

Venus becomes oldest woman to reach third round at Roland Garros since Billie-Jean King in 1982 as she carries the standard for Williams family with sister Serena expecting first child

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 8:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 10:57pm

With pregnant superstar sister Serena not competing, it was left to 36-year-old Venus to carry the standard for the Williams family at Roland Garros on Wednesday, with a second-round thumping of Japan’s Kurumi Nara.

Seeded 10th here, Williams ground her Japanese opponent into the red Parisian dust in a contest that at times almost veered into mismatch territory before ending 6-3, 6-1.

Williams never appeared extended on the Philippe Chatrier court, but she nevertheless delivered a display of exquisite shot-making to a crowd denied a real contest.

Punching her black and lime-green racquet through the ball, Williams cleaned the lines with her groundstrokes, sending Nara scampering all round the arena.

“You know, it’s always a joy when you can control the match,” she smiled afterwards. “That always feels good.”

The win makes her the oldest woman to reach the third round at the French Open since Billie-Jean King in 1982. Next up is either Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp or Belgian Elise Mertens.

“I don’t think I have played either in singles, so it will be interesting to, like, see how that ball is coming at me,” she said.

“I just want to win, so whoever I play, I just would like to win that match. That’s how you have to be is greedy.”

It is Venus’s 20th attempt at winning this title, and time may be running out for her. She came closest in 2002 when she was beaten in the final by her younger sister, as she was at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open that year.

There is no Serena standing in her way here, but plenty of younger guns are eager for a notable victory.

Serena for one, though, is in her corner.

“Yeah, she said, ‘Good job’. She came in sometime during the match. I don’t know exactly when.

“She knows exactly what it’s like out there, and she’s had a lot of success here. If she stays here through the end, I would like that.”

Meanwhile, Petra Kvitova’s French Open comeback ended in the second round on Wednesday as she was knocked out in straight sets by American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

The two-time Wimbledon champion was appearing in her first tournament since a horrifying knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic in December but lost 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5).

Mattek-Sands, the world number 117, will face 2010 Roland Garros finalist Sam Stosur of Australia for a place in the last 16.

In men’s singles, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s French Open hopes vanished into thin air on Wednesday when he was sent packing in the first round with a 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(6-8), 6-4 defeat against Argentine Renzo Olivo

The French 12th seed, who had just won the Lyon Open on clay, bowed out after saving three match points in the only game played on Wednesday after the match was interrupted by dusk on Tuesday.

“We were back to the hotel around 1 am., I had a massage, it was not easy to sleep. I knew the first point today was important,” world No 91 Olivo, who trained in France from 2012-2016, said courtside in French.

Olivo served for the match on Wednesday but Tsonga had broken back to keep his hopes alive.

“I just tried to play every point as it was the last,” said Olivo, who handed Tsonga his second first-round defeat at Roland Garros.

No French man has won the French Open since 1983, let alone a grand slam title.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic had no problems advancing to the third round, beating Joao Sousa 6-1, 6-4, 6-3. The second-seeded Serb will next face Diego Schwartzman.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse