Serena Williams looked ill, and not only because she had lost five games in a row in her 3rd round match at the French Open. A trainer paid Williams a visit during a changeover, checked her temperature and gave her pills. Then came a third-set surge, and Williams beat 18-year-old Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Saturday, 6-1, 1-6, 6-2.
The top-ranked Williams appeared in danger when she fell behind 5-love in the second set and summoned the trainer (for dizziness). Soon Williams' court movement improved, her strokes steadied and she advanced to the fourth round. "Doesn't matter the score, especially against her," Pavlyuchenkova said. "She's a good fighter. She's really confident and she is Serena." The seesaw win assured Williams of retaining the No. 1 ranking after the tournament.
Serena's aggressive returns had Pavlyuchenkova's serve under constant pressure early, but the talented young Russian -- a three-time Grand Slam champion in juniors -- suddenly reversed the momentum in the second set. Williams began to look sluggish during points, took her time between them and occasionally grimaced, while Pavlyuchenkova's booming groundstrokes had her on the defensive.
But in the third set, Williams erased three break points to take the lead for good at 2-1. She again became forceful with her returns, and whacked the last one at Pavlyuchenkova's feet for the win. "In the third, she just started the set with a new power," Pavlyuchenkova said. Pavlyuchenkova, seeded 29th, fell to 8-1 this year in three-set matches. Williams is 100-44 in three-setters. "After she beat me she has to win the tournament," Pavlyuchenkova said. "I really hope so." She will next face Israel's Shahar Peer, who matched her best result at the French Open by defeating Marion Bartoli of France 7-6 (7), 6-2 to reach the fourth round.