Paris – First it was Serena Williams’ turn to overpower an opponent 6-2, 6-1 on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Shortly after that was over Thursday, her older sister Venus entered the very same French Open arena and won by the very same score.
A bit like old times, n’est-ce pas?
“It’s a little surreal sometimes, because it has been so long. They’ve both been out here almost 20 years,” said their sister, Isha Price, who was in the stands for both matches.
“It was nice to have them play back-to-back and not have to move,” Price added with a laugh. “It’s so interesting that their scoreline was the same. It was really nice to be there for that.”
Back in 2002, when neither was yet 22, the American siblings contested the final at Roland Garros, one of their eight all-in-the-family Grand Slam title matches — and they haven’t played each other at any stage in Paris since.
That’s due in part to Venus’ troubles at the clay-court tournament, where, now nearly 36, she moved into the third round for the first time since 2010 by relinquishing only three games in 54 minutes against American qualifier Louisa Chirico. Defending champion Serena’s similarly simple victory against 81st-ranked Teliana Pereira of Brazil lasted 12 minutes longer.
The sisters — No. 1-seeded Serena, No. 9 Venus — even got a chance to cross paths and catch up briefly between their nearly identical matches. Serena faced one break point; Venus zero. Serena compiled a 31-6 edge in winners; Venus’s margin was 22-6. Serena made 17 unforced errors; Venus 15.
If some spectators were pleased that a single ticket allowed them to see one Williams, then the other, the players themselves said they don’t really find the time to savor such events.
“We’re unfortunately really focused on our match. And I say ‘unfortunately,’ because in a few years, we’ll be like, ‘Wow, that’s a great moment,’” the 34-year-old Serena said. “But right now, we have to be focused on what we want to do in going out there and winning the match.”
“We focus more on the match at hand, and we both have a job to do, and that’s to try to get to the next round,” she said. “We focus less on the significance of us playing and more of like, ‘Can you win this match?’”
Each Williams next plays a French opponent: Serena against No. 26 Kristina Mladenovic, Venus against unseeded Alize Cornet.
“It’s going to be very complicated,” Mladenovic said.
It would take three more victories apiece, but — on the half of the draw already missing No. 3 Angelique Kerber and No. 5 Victoria Azarenka — there is the potential for a Williams vs. Williams semifinal next week. They have not met that deep into a major tournament in seven years, although Serena did defeat Venus in the U.S. Open quarterfinals in September.
One match after that, of course, Serena’s bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam ended. So did her pursuit there of Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam titles, an effort Serena has resumed at Roland Garros.
When it comes to milestones, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both achieved notable ones Thursday.
No. 1 Djokovic became the seventh man with 50 match wins in the French Open, moving to the third round by overcoming 42 unforced errors on a windswept afternoon to beat 161st-ranked qualifier Steve Darcis of Belgium 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. Next on Djokovic’s agenda: joining the other half-dozen men on that list with at least one championship at Roland Garros.
The fourth-seeded Nadal, meanwhile, earned his the 200th Grand Slam victory of his career, something seven other men — including Djokovic — have done.
At the outset against 99th-ranked Facundo Bagnis of Argentina, a fellow lefty, Nadal was a little tentative and dropped 10 of the first 13 points to trail 0-2, love-30.
“True,” Nadal acknowledged, “I started slow.”
Didn’t take the nine-time French Open champion long to get going, though. He reeled off 14 of 15 games to seize control along the way to winning 6-3, 6-0, 6-3.
Nadal improved to 200-30 in majors, a winning percentage of .870, and 72-2 at Roland Garros.
“The only thing I know is that I have reached the third round,” Nadal said. “That’s the only thing that matters for me.”