For the second match running world number one Naomi Osaka stared at an early French Open exit but once again she fought like a champion, recovering from a woeful start to beat Victoria Azarenka 4-6 7-5 6-3.
The 21-year-old Japanese lost the first four games against a fired-up former world number one but reacted superbly to claw herself back and claim a 16th successive Grand Slam match win.
She is aiming to win a third successive major having bagged her first two at the U.S. and Australian Opens but she is doing it the hard way in Paris.
Azarenka seemed poised to follow up her first round win over 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko when she moved 4-2 ahead in the second set playing with the kind of control and aggression that took her to two Australian Open triumphs. But Osaka flicked a switch and began pummelling heavy groundstrokes that kept Azarenka at full stretch.
Osaka piled on the pressure when Azarenka served at 5-6 but squandered three set points before finally levelling the match with a screaming backhand winner.
She raced into a 5-1 lead in the decider and although Azarenka grabbed the next two games, Osaka kept her focus to reach the third round.
No sweat for Serena Williams as she swings into round three
Serena Williams breezed into the third round of the French Open on Thursday with a routine 6-3 6-2 win against Japanese Kurumi Nara, wasting little energy in her quest for a record-equalling Grand Slam singles title.
The 10th seed, chasing a first major since the 2017 Australian Open, survived a first-set fright in her opening match, but there was no hiccup this time.
She will take on fellow American Sofia Kenin in the next round, with world number one Naomi Osaka a potential opponent in the quarter-finals.
The 37-year-old was given a decent workout by world number 238 Nara, who was playing her only second match in the main draw of a tour-level tournament this year.
“I think she was playing tennis the whole time, really good tennis the whole time,” Williams told reporters.
“She was just playing really tactical tennis, and I just had to play a little bit better.”
Nara stood her ground in the first seven games but derailed in the eighth as Williams broke for 5-3 with a booming forehand winner down the line.
The Japanese cracked earlier in the second set, dropping serve in the third game, and never recovered as Williams snatched her 801st victory on the tour.
Although an ankle injury disrupted her early season, Williams believes she still has what it takes to match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
“I generally come to a Grand Slam to win it,” she said.
“I have had a tough year since I twisted my ankle in Australia. It’s just been really tough after that.
“So everything definitely feels a little bit harder than normal, but at the same time, I know that it’s going to get better.”