Holder Serena Williams survived her toughest challenge yet at this year’s French Open as she battled into the fourth round with a 6-4 7-6(10) win over Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic in a rain-disrupted match on Saturday.
The American’s victory charge was halted for more than 2-1/2 hours as a thunderous downpour descended over Roland Garros with Williams leading 6-4 6-6.
When the duo came back on court to resume battle in a titanic tiebreak lasting 17 minutes, Williams produced some howlers as four match points went begging.
At 6-5 she drew a chorus of 15,000 gasps as she smashed the ball metres over the baseline and Williams was way off target at 8-7 too, misfiring a forehand well beyond the court markings.
The American then drew on the wealth of experience that has earned her 21 grand slam titles to save a set point before sealing victory when Mladenovic belted a forehand wide.
She will next face Ukrainian 18th seed Elina Svitolina, who knocked out 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic.