It was a mixed day for the Williams sisters at the French Open on Wednesday as defending champion Serena Williams swatted aside the limp challenge of Elina Svitolina 6-1 6-1 to enter the quarter-finals. Serena’s sister Venus, however, lost to Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky 2-6, 4-6.
The world number one rarely sparkled on a damp, dank centre court at Roland Garros, but always wielded enough firepower to see off the Ukrainian 18th seed in a match that was delayed by two days due to the fickle Parisian weather.
Empty green seats outnumbered raincoat-clad fans by around five to one on the Parisian showcourt, and the heavy, slow balls meant there was little artistry to entice greater numbers.
Although spluttering from time to time -- Williams fired the odd serve alarmingly long; netted the occasional simple groundstroke -- the top seed always did enough to neuter her scurrying opponent.
Serena will play Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, who beat Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 7-5, 7-5 to make her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
After dropping the first two games against Venus, the eighth-seeded Bacsinszky won eight in a row, controlling the match for long periods from the centre of the court and varying the pace and depth of her play to keep her opponent guessing.
Ninth-seeded Venus, playing her 19th Roland Garros and at 35 the oldest player in the women’s draw, had strapping on both knees and moved stiffly, especially in the first set, as she gambled on hitting groundstroke winners from often unpromising positions.
“I found it hard to get into the match (even though) I had three days to decide on my tactics,” Bacsinszky said on court after the match, agreeing it was important to have won in straight sets as “there is no longer any respite” in terms of days off between each match.
Bacsinszky, who reached the semi-final last year before losing in three sets to Serena in the semifinals, will play Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in the quarter-final, the Dutch woman a 7-6 (4), 6-3 winner over 15th seed Madison Keys of the US.