After 'long' coach's speech, Williams gets by
Serena Williams was ahead, yes, but hardly at her best, when claps of thunder and a heavy downpour interrupted her third-round French Open match at a critical juncture.
So during what turned out to be a delay of more than 21/2 hours right before a second-set tiebreaker yesterday against 26th-seeded Kristina Mladenovic of France, Williams met with coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
"I spoke 10 minutes, which is far too long. Actually, at the end, I said: 'Sorry. I spoke too long; much too long.' Because a long speech is not a good speech; it has to be short and powerful," Mouratoglou recounted later. "My point was just to make her think the way she thinks when she's good, when she's playing like Serena plays."
Did it work?
"Just look at the score," Mouratoglou said, "And, more than that, look at the way she did it."
Coming out of the locker room determined to dictate play more than she had been, Williams edged Mladenovic 6-4, 7-6 (10), a victory that set up a fourth-round matchup against a woman whose coaching consultant is the 34-year-old American's former rival, Justine Henin.
"Up until that point, I had not been playing my game. I was playing really defensive. It's not me," said the top-seeded Williams, who compiled a 5-2 advantage in winners in the tiebreaker. "So I just wanted to be Serena out there."
Her sister, Venus, seeded No.9, beat France's Alize Cornet 7-6 (5), 1-6, 6-0 to reach the fourth round for the first time since 2010. And another American, No. 15 Madison Keys, got that far at Roland Garros for the first time with a 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory over Monica Puig.
Quarter-final berths will be at stake in these matchups tomorrow: Venus vs No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky, Keys vs Kiki Bertens, No. 12 Carla Suarez Navarro vs Yulia Putintseva.
Next up for Serena Williams is No. 18 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, who was 0-7 against Ana Ivanovic before beating the 2008 French Open champion 6-4, 6-4.
Svitolina, 21 and the winner of the girls' title in Paris in 2010, is 0-3 against Williams.
In men's action, No. 1 Novak Djokovic finished his 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Aljaz Bedene just before nightfall, while No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga quit after seven games against Ernests Gulbis because of an injured right leg. Other winners: No. 7 Tomas Berdych, No. 11 David Ferrer, No. 12 David Goffin, No. 13 Dominic Thiem and No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut.
Thiem, 22, got past Alexander Zverev 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to close in on his first Grand Slam quarter-final.
While the draw set up a potential fourth-round match for Thiem against Rafael Nadal, the nine-time French Open champion's withdrawal Friday because of an injured left wrist means that a far less daunting opponent awaits.
Instead, Thiem faces 56th-ranked Marcel Granollers, who never has reached a major quarter-final either.
"Against Rafa, I'm the underdog," Thiem acknowledged. "Against Granollers, I'm probably the favourite."