Smiling Serena Williams survives scare as Stefanos Tsitsipas also battles into French Open third round

American great continues her bid for 24th major singles title

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 2, 2021 Serena Williams of the U.S. shakes hands with Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu after winning their second round match REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
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Serena Williams survived a scare to extend her latest bid for an elusive 24th Grand Slam singles title with a three-set victory over Mihaela Buzarnescu on Wednesday, while men's fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas also reached the French Open third round.

Williams, 39, who has been one short of Margaret Court's all-time record of most major trophies since 2017, brushed off a second-set blip to win 6-3, 5-7, 6-1.

The American, seeded seventh, will play compatriot Danielle Collins for a last-16 berth as she looks for a fourth French Open crown, but first since 2015.

"It was good competition, she was playing well and I was playing well," said the former world number one, who has withdrawn injured mid-tournament on two of her last three visits to Roland Garros.

"The points were long. It was kind of fun," added Williams."I was smiling out there which is rare for me, but it's always good to enjoy your job."

Williams has already seen two of her likeliest title rivals either fail to start the tournament or pull out in unprecedented circumstances.

World No3 Simona Halep, who defeated Williams in the 2019 Wimbledon final, withdrew before the event with injury.

The biggest story of the week so far has been world number two Naomi Osaka's shock withdrawal after a press boycott, saying she has been suffering with "bouts of depression" since her breakthrough triumph over Williams in the controversial 2018 US Open showpiece match.

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas returns the ball to Spain's Pedro Martinez during their men's singles second round tennis match at the Court Suzanne Lenglen on Day 4 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2021. / AFP / Christophe ARCHAMBAULT
Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas returns the ball to Spain's Pedro Martinez. AFP

Williams started well on Wednesday with a comfortable opening set, but paid for missing seven of eight break points in the second as world number 174 Buzarnescu forced a decider.

But she double-faulted on break point in the first game of the third set and Williams cruised to the finish line.

Tsitsipas, regarded as the favourite to reach the final from his half of the draw, put in a strong display to dispose of Spaniard Pedro Martinez 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

The Greek, who lost an epic semi-final at Roland Garros to Novak Djokovic last year, next faces big-serving American John Isner for a spot in the second week.

The 22-year-old has never reached a Grand Slam final, but has reached the semis in his last two major tournaments.

"We're here at a Grand Slam and it's a big opportunity... But of course it's going to be a challenge," said Tsitsipas.

He has won his last three meetings with Isner, who beat Filip Krajinovic in straight sets.

Sixth seed Alexander Zverev was in scratchy form but did enough to see off Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin in straight sets.

The German, last year's US Open runner-up, will take on Serbia's Laslo Djere in the third round after a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 7-6 (7/1) victory.