Serena Williams’ road to another French Open title got paved a lot smoother on Tuesday at Roland Garros when No. 3 Angie Kerber, who beat the American at the Australian Open, and No. 5 Victoria Azarenka, who beat Williams during the spring hardcourts run in the U.S., both fell out of the tournament.
Kerber was shocked by Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens, who entered the event fresh from winning the WTA Nurnberg title, and outlasted the German 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Kerber’s confidence in Paris wasn’t apparent after early exits in Madrid and Rome, then pulling out of Nurnberg.
“I came here to play round by round, and I know that you must play your best tennis in the first rounds, as well, because everybody is a tough opponent to play,” Kerber said. “I was trying it. It was not my day. I tried to fight also in the third set. But unfortunately she played too good in the important moments.”
Bertens will next face Camila Giorgi who was a winner over France’s Alize Lim.
Azarenka, who had injury doubts entering the event even as she proclaimed herself fit, retired in the third set against Italy’s Karin Knapp trailing 3-6, 7-6(6), 0-4.
“Heading into the match today I was feeling fine. I was ready to play,” Azarenka said. “But I started to feel a sharp pain in my right knee. I’ve had an injury there before, a while ago, but it hasn’t been a problem until today. At first it was on and off and I was able to win the tiebreak, but then it got worse as the match went on, and unfortunately there was nothing I could do.”
The world No. 1 Williams had no issues Tuesday, rolling over Slovak Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2, 6-0.
“It was a little short for me,” Serena said. “But I think in my career if I don’t have it by now I need to look into something different.”
She will next meet Teliana Pereira, who recorded a 7-5, 3-6, 9-7 win over Kristyna Pliskova.
Also upset-minded on Tuesday were German Julia “Gorgeous” Goerges topping No. 20 Johanna Konta 6-2, 6-3, and German Tatjana Maria outlasting former No. 1 and No. 23 seed Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Other Top 10-seeded winners were No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky handling Spain’s Silvia Soler Espinosa 6-3, 6-1, and No. 9 Venus Williams struggling past Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit 7-6(5), 7-6(4).
The elder Williams will next square off against countrywoman Louisa Chirico, who beat countrywoman Lauren Davis 8-6 in the third.
“I haven’t seen her play,” Williams said of Chirico. “I don’t really know much about her. But of course I’m happy to see her doing well. It’s not as much fun when you have to meet an American early on, but the best part is an American will go through.”
Also into the second round were seeds No. 12 Carla Suarez Navarro who needed three to beat Katerina Siniakova, No. 14 Ana Ivanovic who needed three to beat Oceane Dodin, No. 15 Madison Keys, No. 18 Elina Svitolina, No. 21 Samantha Stosur who beat Misaki Doi in three, No. 22 Dominika Cibulkova, No. 26 Kristina Mladenovic who beat former champ Francesca Schiavone, No. 27 Ekaterina Makarova who came from a set down to defeat Varvara Lepchenko, No. 28 Andrea Petkovic, and No. 29 Darya Kasatkina who defeated Anna-Lena Friedsam in three sets.
Winners of note in all-unseeded play were former world No. 1 junior Taylor Townsend over French wildcard Amandine Hesse, Eugenie Bouchard easily over Laura Siegemund, Croat riser Ana Konjuh, Alize Cornet, and China’s Wang Qiang sending French wildcard Tessah Andrianjafitrimo out 6-0, 6-0.
Bouchard will next face the No. 8 seed Bacsinszky, who she lost to earlier this year in Indian Wells in three sets.
“I’m excited. I want a rematch from Indian Wells,” Bouchard said. “I know she plays great, especially on this surface, I think. But I’m going to go for it. I know with my game that I can definitely come out on top, but as usual it’s always one point at a time.”
Highlights on Wednesday at Roland Garros are (6) Simona Halep vs. Zarina Diyas, (2) Aggie Radwanska vs. France’s Caroline Garcia, and (25) Irina-Camelia Begu vs. the bruiser CoCo Vandeweghe.
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