Published May 30, 2013
PARIS – Already ahead by a set and a break, thanks mainly to her powerful serving and groundstrokes, Serena Williams decided to show she can caress a tennis ball, too.
Catching her French Open foe flat-footed, Williams deftly hit a drop shot so perfectly it pretty much nestled into the red clay after clearing the net. Delighted, she raised her left fist and looked up in the stands, where her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, shook his right one.
"I was, like, 'Yeah!' I only hit drop shots in practice," Williams said. "I never hit them in a match. ... It's not a go-to shot."
She certainly has plenty of other options.
The top-seeded Williams extended her career-high winning streak to 26 matches — and improved to 69-3 since a first-round loss at the French Open a year ago — by beating French wild-card entry Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-2 Wednesday to reach the third round. The American has lost four games in two matches.
"She's very accurate in her shots," Garcia said, "despite the fact that they're very hard."
When Garcia won the second point of the match on a missed forehand by Williams, someone in the crowd yelled, "Allez, Caroline!" Not much to cheer for after that, though: Williams won the next three points with a 111 mph ace, a 100 mph ace, and a 101 mph service winner. In all, Williams hit six aces and won 32 of 39 service points.
"I came out strong," Williams said, "because I knew I had to."
The 19-year-old Garcia is ranked only 114th, but much is expected of her. Against Maria Sharapova in the 2011 French Open, she won the first set and led 4-1 in the second before collapsing completely, losing the next 11 games and the match. Her performance was good enough to inspire Andy Murray to write on Twitter that Garcia "is going to be No. 1 in the world one day."
For now, it's Williams who holds that distinction in the rankings, and she certainly looks like someone intent on keeping it that way.
"It's important for me to win easily," said the 15-time major champion, who won the French Open in 2002. "It's also important for me to play well. If I play well, it will bode well for me at Roland Garros."
Among the past Grand Slam title winners hoping to join her in the third round with victories Thursday: defending French Open champion Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Li Na and Petra Kvitova. There wasn't much time to rest for Azarenka and Kvitova, both of whom finally got to play on Wednesday and won first-round matches that had been postponed by rain.
Also winning Wednesday: 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic and 2012 runner-up Sara Errani. Former No. 1 and 2009 U.S. Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki, whose boyfriend is golf star Rory McIlroy, lost 7-6 (2), 6-3 to Serbia's Bojana Jovanovski.
No seeded men lost Wednesday, and so far only one of the top 16 has, No. 5 Tomas Berdych. Moving into the third round Wednesday were 17-time major champion Roger Federer, No. 4 David Ferrer, No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 10 Marin Cilic, No. 11 Nicolas Almagro, No. 14 Milos Raonic, No. 15 Gilles Simon, and No. 18 Sam Querrey, an American who was 1-6 in his Roland Garros career before this year and is 2-0 this week.
"I'm really excited. That was my goal coming in. I've never made it third round here," said Querrey, who faces Simon next, "so anything past there is great."
The man who eliminated Berdych, France's Gael Monfils, followed that up by beating Ernests Gulbis 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-2 — and, much like a tourist, Monfils shot some video by which to remember the occasion.
During a changeover, Monfils got permission from the chair umpire to use his phone to film the fans doing the wave.
Monfils explained: "He tell me, 'Sure, you can.' So I say, 'OK, I will tape it, like, quick."
Rafael Nadal, trying to become the first man with eight titles at any Grand Slam tournament, and No. 1 Novak Djokovic were scheduled to play in the second round Thursday.
That duo and Federer have combined to win 30 of the last 32 major championships, and while Nadal dropped his first set of this French Open on Tuesday, Federer has a pair of straightforward and straight-set victories against qualifiers so far. The second came Wednesday, by a score of 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 against two-time NCAA singles champion Somdev Devvarman.
Now Federer faces 30th-seeded Julien Benneteau, a Frenchman who not only already beat him once this year but also came within two points of upsetting him at Wimbledon, of all places, in 2012.
"I think I'm playing OK," Federer said in something of an understatement, considering he's dropped 11 games through six sets. "Definitely think the next match is going to be sort of the big test for me, to see exactly where I stand."
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