x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Venus fights back to progress in Paris

Venus Williams saves a match point before beating her opponent, and Jelena Jankovic joins the seven-time Grand Slam champion in the third round of the French Open.

Venus Williams was made to fight against Lucie Safarova at Roland Garros today.
Venus Williams was made to fight against Lucie Safarova at Roland Garros today.

PARIS // Venus Williams saved a match point before beating her Czech opponent, and Jelena Jankovic joined the seven-time Grand Slam champion in the third round of the French Open today. Williams began her match against Lucie Safarova on Wednesday, but play was suspended because of darkness after the third-seeded American lost the first set. She faced a match point while trailing 5-4 in the final set, but managed to hold serve, break Safarova and hold again for the 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-5 win.

Jankovic had an easier time, moving a step closer to her third straight semi-final appearance at Roland Garros by beating Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1, 6-2. "I think I'm coming back," said Jankovic, who started this season as the top-ranked player in women's tennis. "This is the most important thing for me, especially when you saw me playing a few months ago. It was really disastrous." The fifth-seeded Jankovic won 15 of the first 17 points, and then broke her opponent in the final game of the first set.

In the second, she recovered from an early break to win four straight games, and closed out the match with her sixth break of service. Jankovic has lost in the semi-finals at Roland Garros in each of the last two years. She made her first Grand Slam final at the 2008 US Open. The seventh seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia also advanced, beating Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan 6-0, 6-2. No 10 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and No 24 Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada also won, but No 13 Marion Bartoli of France lost to Tathiana Garbin of Italy 6-3, 7-5.

On the men's side, Tommy Robredo of Spain advanced. Later today, the second seed Roger Federer will play on centre court, while No 4 Novak Djokovic and women's No 2 Serena Williams were also scheduled to play. On Wednesday, veteran players Marat Safin and Fabrice Santoro said goodbye to the French Open, both departing from the clay-court tournament in the first week. Safin, the former world No 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion, lost a back-and-forth marathon to French wild-card entry Josselin Ouanna 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 3-6, 10-8 in the second round.

Santoro played only eight minutes in the completion of his 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 first-round loss to Christophe Rochus of Belgium. "I didn't draw the heart, and I didn't lay down and I didn't cry," said Safin, who reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros only once in his 11 appearances in 2002. "Terrible way to finish with the French Open, but anyway ..." Maria Sharapova nearly joined Safin and Santoro on the sidelines, but the unseeded Russian escaped the second-round by hanging on to beat 11th-seeded Nadia Petrova 6-2, 1-6, 8-6. The top-seeded Dinara Safina and defending champion Ana Ivanovic also advanced. In the men's tournament, four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal stretched his record to a perfect 30-0 on the red clay of Roland Garros, and No 3 Andy Murray also advanced.

*AP