French Open

Storm fails to stop Serena Williams’ march, as Dominic Thiem impresses at French Open

Defending women’s champion advances to quarter-finals, while 22-year-old Austrian confirms status as an outsider to clinch the men’s title

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 May, 2016, 12:55am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 May, 2016, 12:55am

Serena Williams swept into the last 16 at the French Open on a rain-hit Saturday in Paris, while Dominic Thiem confirmed his status as an outsider to win the men’s title.

Williams, seeking an Open-era, record-equalling 22nd grand slam title, was a set up and about to tackle a second set tie-break against France’s Kristina Mladenovic when a thunderstorm sent everyone scurrying for cover.

When play resumed more than 2½ half hours later, the top seed and defending champion needed five match points to finish the job going through 6-4, 7-6 (12-10) with Ukraine 18th seed Elina Svitolina next in her line of fire following her victory over former champion Ana Ivanovic.

“It was very difficult, she played really, really well. She forced me to bring out my best tennis,” the 34-year-old American said.

Thiem was already done and dusted ahead of the rain, downing German teenager Alexander Zverev 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the fourth round.

In what was a clash of two of the sport’s rising new stars, the Austrian dropped a tight first set, but then coasted away from his 19-year-old opponent.

He will next play Spain’s Marcel Granollers, who reached the fourth round without hitting a ball after nine-time champion Rafael Nadal withdrew due to a wrist injury.

If he wins that, it will be the first time that 22-year-old Thiem has reached the quarter-finals of a grand slam tournament.

“It’s been the third match in the last four weeks between us and it was really tough, but I knew that from the start already,” he said.

“It was my first match on one of the big stadiums [at Roland Garros] and it was packed. An unbelievable experience.”

Also through to the last 16 was 2014 losing finalist David Ferrer who comfortably saw off the challenge of fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1.

In the women’s tournament, there were early wins for eighth seed Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland, Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro and Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, who reached the last 16 of a grand slam tournament for the first time.

The long rain delay forced organisers to shuffle the court scheduling with notably top seed Novak Djokovic switched from the Philippe Chatrier centre court to the secondary Court Suzanne Langlen for his match against Britain’s Aljaz Bedene.