Friday, February 23, 2018
Sports

Similar wins play out for Serena, Venus

PARIS — First it was Serena Williams' turn to overpower an opponent 6-2, 6-1 on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Shortly after that was over Thursday, her older sister Venus entered the same French Open arena and won by the same score. A bit like old times?

"It's a little surreal sometimes because it has been so long," said their sister Isha Price, who was in the stands for both matches. "They've both been out here almost 20 years."

In 2002, when neither was yet 22, the American siblings played in the final at Roland Garros, one of their eight all-in-the-family Grand Slam title matches. They haven't played each other at any stage in Paris since.

That's due in part to Venus' troubles at the claycourt tournament, where, now nearly 36, she moved into the third round for the first time since 2010 by relinquishing only three games in 54 minutes against American qualifier Louisa Chirico. In her win, defending champion Serena, 34, played only 12 minutes more against 81st-ranked Teliana Pereira.

No. 1-seeded Serena faced one break point, No. 9 Venus zero. Serena compiled a 31-6 edge in winners; Venus's margin was 22-6. Serena made 17 unforced errors, Venus 15.

The sisters said they don't really find the time to savor such events.

"We're unfortunately really focused on our match. And I say unfortunately because in a few years, we'll be like, 'Wow, that's a great moment,' " Serena said. "But right now we have to be focused on what we want to do in going out there and winning the match."

Venus agreed. "We focus more on the match at hand, and we both have a job to do, and that's to try to get to the next round," she said. "We focus less on the significance of us playing and more of like, 'Can you win this match?' "

It would take three more victories apiece, but — on the half of the draw already missing No. 3 Angelique Kerber and No. 5 Victoria Azarenka — there is the potential for a Williams versus Williams semifinal next week. They have not met that deep into a major in seven years. Serena did defeat Venus in the U.S. Open quarterfinals in September.

When it comes to milestones, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal achieved notable ones.

No. 1 Djokovic became the seventh man with 50 match wins in the French Open, moving to the third round by overcoming 42 unforced errors on a windswept afternoon to beat 161st-ranked qualifier Steve Darcis 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

Fourth-seeded Nadal earned the 200th Grand Slam victory of his career, something seven other men — including Djokovic — have done.

At the outset against 99th-ranked Facundo Bagnis, a fellow lefty, Nadal was a little tentative and dropped 10 of the first 13 points to trail 0-2, love-30.

"True," Nadal said, "I started slow."

It didn't take the nine-time French Open champion long to get going, though. He reeled off wins in 14 of the next 15 games to seize control along the way to winning 6-3, 6-0, 6-3. Nadal improved to 200-30 in majors, 72-2 at Roland Garros.

"The only thing I know is that I have reached the third round," Nadal said. "That's the only thing that matters for me."

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