Halep and Osaka battle through as Serena steps up
Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep were taken the distance in round two of the French Open on Thursday, while Serena Williams avoided the same fate.
World number one Osaka came from a set and a break down to defeat two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka 4-6 7-5 6-3 in an enthralling encounter on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, where Magda Linette made reigning champion Halep fight for a 6-4 5-7 6-3 victory.
Williams appeared to be in improving form as she dispatched Kurumi Nara 6-3 6-2, while Ashleigh Barty got past Danielle Collins 7-5 6-1 and Belinda Bencic triumphed in a meeting with Laura Siegemund that was held over from Wednesday.
Seeds Aryna Sabalenka (11), Qiang Wang (16), Daria Kasatkina (21), Caroline Garcia (24), Hsieh Su-wei (25) and Maria Sakkari (29) all bowed out. Madison Keys (14) and Lesia Tsurenko (27) were in third sets when their matches were suspended.
NAOMI'S TOXIC TRAIT
After overturning a dropped first set to Azarenka, Osaka admitted the way she puts pressure on herself can make things difficult. However, the winner of the past two grand slams has no intention of changing.
She said: "It's more like I feel like I have to win. I acknowledge that's kind of a toxic trait, but, like, it's gotten me this far, so..."
Fight. pic.twitter.com/iLMCwDEqSy— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) May 30, 2019
Halep looked set to crumble when she surrendered three match points and lost four games in succession to Linette, who forced a decider.
However, the Romanian managed to finish the job as the light faded and rain set in.
SERENA THANKED BY ANISMIOVA
Teenager Amanda Anisimova scored a second major victory over Sabalenka, who she also beat at the Australian Open, in impressive fashion, triumphing 6-4 6-2 in just 75 minutes to become the youngest American woman in round three at Roland Garros since Williams in 1998.
The 17-year-old revealed how words of encouragement from Williams helped her following a second-round loss to Anett Kontaveit at the Miami Open.
"It was a really long match and I was super upset in the locker room, Serena actually came up to me and we shared a little bit of a chat. That was really nice of her and I'll remember it forever," said Anisimova.
When asked about the incident, Williams said: "I was heartbroken when she walked into that locker room, and I wanted to be there for her because I have been there. It's an interesting position, because no one ever says anything, even though I feel like a lot of people want to. I just decided, I'm not gonna do that anymore."
Just four seeds in the top half of the draw have booked their place in round three (Osaka, Halep, Barty and Williams), while Keys and Tsurenko's chances remain in the balance.
Anna Blinkova frustrated the home fans as she guaranteed her deepest run at a grand slam by knocking out Garcia 1-6 6-4 6-4.
Iga Swiatek, making just her second main-draw appearance at a major, ousted Wang 6-3 6-0, before Andrea Petkovic and Olympic champion Monica Puig upset Hsieh and Kasatkina.
Tributes were paid to Lucie Safarova on Court Philippe-Chatrier with the Czech having called time on her career after she and partner Dominika Cibulkova lost in the first round of the women's doubles on Wednesday.
Safarova, a runner-up to Serena Williams in the singles at Roland Garros in 2015 and two-time women's doubles champion with Bethanie Mattek-Sands, was presented with a trophy by French Tennis Federation president Bernard Guidicelli and French Open tournament director Guy Forget.