Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 26 JUNE
Serena up for the fight
Down a set and a break, Serena Williams let out a huge roar as she cracked a backhand return winner past Ashleigh Barty.
Clenching her fists and looking up at her long-time coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, it turned out to be turning point of the match against the 17th-seeded Australian as the three-time champion finally found her groove.
Barty had claimed the first set with a nerveless display and opened the second with an immediate break of serve, but Williams suddenly embarked on a four-game winning streak as she started to play the sort of aggressive tennis that has won her an Open era record 23 Grand Slam singles titles.
After forcing the decider with an ace slammed down the middle, Williams took a 3-1 lead after Barty double-faulted to gift her a break point.
“I lost the first set, and I thought, I have got to try harder, and Serena came out,” Williams told the crowd after moving to the third round with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win.
If there were any doubts before about Williams’ motivation to win the big titles since she became a mother in September, they were washed away as the 36-year-old American powered a backhand winner past her opponent move to the third round.
She will play Germany’s Julia Goerges in the next round, followed by a possible fourth round clash against Maria Sharapova.
Rafa Vs. Richard, Part 16
Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet, who will play each other in the third round, first met when they were 11 years old.
Back in those days, the hugely talented Frenchman was getting more press than Nadal, including a cover of French Tennis Magazine when he was just nine with the headline “The champion France has been waiting for?”
Although Gasquet beat his friend when he was 13 years old, the former top-ranked junior has been on a 15-0 losing streak on the men’s Tour against the Spaniard, including a defeat at Roland-Garros in 2005.
“A lot of people were expecting this match, third round, 33 degrees,” Gasquet said, after beating Malek Jaziri of Tunisia, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0. “When I left the match [against Nadal in 2005], I was with my father at this time, I said, He's going to win and he might win a lot of Grand Slams behind that, because he was incredible.”
“I didn't think he would win ten times, but I knew he would win five or six.”
Not surprisingly, Nadal is looking forward to playing Gasquet.
“It will be a good match against a good friend in the most important place in my career, and for him a very special place, too,” Nadal said, after he eased past Argentina’s Guido Pella in straight sets.
Earlier in the day, Sharapova overcame Croatia’s Donna Vekic, 7-5, 6-4 on Court 1.
Sharapova, who turned her season around on the clay earlier this month in Madrid and Rome after one of the longest losing streaks of her career, produced 29 winners, including six aces.
She’ll play former US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova, one of the biggest servers in the women’s game, in the third round.
“I don't expect extremely long rallies against an opponent like that,” said the former world No. 1 from Russia, who won the only match they played.
“But sometimes it's not what it takes to win a match, and I think you have to kind of take care of your service games, and I have to serve better than I have been and take care of the return,” she said.
“But that side of the game, I feel, has improved in the last few months and I like the challenge of coming up against a really good server.”
Playing in his first Grand Slam event, Britain’s Cameron Norrie gave French No.1 Lucas Pouille a run for his money before eventually succumbing, 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (3), in a match had been held over for darkness on Wednesday night.
Norrie, who struggled with stomach illness in the first two sets, is having a strong season since he turned pro last year after playing college tennis in the US.
The New Zealand-raised player entered the Top 100 for the first time in his career last week after he beat Wimbledon marathon man John Isner to reach the semi-final of Lyon, France.
During his post-match press conference, Norrie said people sometimes confuse him with 1980s America action star Chuck Norris.
“When I went to Argentina for pre-season, they actually thought my name was ‘Chuck Norris’ at the team I played for,” Norrie said. “So it was pretty funny. It's an honor to be compared to him.”
Edmund the last Brit standing
Following Norrie’s exit and first round losses for Johanna Konta and Heather Watson, world No.17 Kyle Edmund finds himself the lone Brit standing at a Grand slam tournament for the third time in a row.
After overcoming Hungary’s Marlon Fucsovics in four sets, Edmund faces flamboyant Italian Fabio Fognini next.
“He's obviously beaten Rafa, a few times,” said Edmund. “He knows his way on the clay court.”
He added: “It will be one of them where you do problem-solving on the court.”
Benneteau bows out
Former semi-finalist Juan Martin Del Potro ended the Roland-Garros career of France’s Julien Benneteau in straight sets on a packed Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I am so proud of him,” Del Potro told the crowd. “He made a fantastic career in singles,” before giving the mic to the 2006 quarterfinalist.
“Merci beaucoup, it was an honour to play in this stadium ,” said the 36-year-old Benneteau after playing his 100th and final grand slam match.
“I will have time for my wife and my little boy,” said the world No. 62, his voice now wavering. “It was an incredible opportunity that I have had.”