Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova survived big scares at the French Open on Thursday, both needing to come back from a set down to reach the third round.
Williams, 19 times a grand slam winner, suffered an almighty fright before finally seeing off the challenge of world No.105 Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany.
The 33-year-old, top-seeded American dropped the first set and faced break points against her unheralded 21-year-old opponent in the second, but rallied just in time to go through 5-7 6-3 6-3.
“A win is a win and as long as you live to survive the next day, you can always improve,” Williams said.
“I know my level is literally a hundred times better than I played today.”
Williams will next face two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who beat Czech Lucie Hradecka 6-2 6-3.
Azarenka, who has given Williams trouble in the past, is back in business after losing much of last year to a bout of depression and injuries.
“I know what she’s going to do,” Azarenka said.
“It’s a matter for me to really focus on my game and really try to be in control because that’s what she loves to do. She likes to take control. She likes to be aggressive.”
Azarenka had three match points against Williams in Madrid earlier this month but lost in three sets.
In a day marked by cold, blustery conditions, fourth seed Kvitova made it through to the last 32 with a 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-2 win over Spain’s Silvia Soler-Espinosa.
But it was another nervy showing from the Wimbledon champion, who was taken to the limit in her opening match against New Zealander Marina Erakovic.
“It was a tough match again. Second round of a grand slam is always difficult,” Kvitova said.
Kvitova will go up against Irina-Camelia Begu for a place in the last 16, the Romanian 30th seed defeating Croatian Ana Konjuh.
Despite the scares, only fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki was packing her bags for home after the Dane lost 6-4 7-6 (7-4) to an impressive Julia Goerges of Germany.
Like Kvitova, German 10th seed Andrea Petkovic had stared defeat in the face only to bounce back for a 4-6 6-4 6-4 win over Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain.
Meanwhile, Sara Errani, who lost to Maria Sharapova in the 2012 final, also had to claw her way back from being down to defeat German youngster Carina Witthoeft 6-3 4-6 6-2.
There were slow-burning fireworks out on Court One where Svetlana Kuznetsova outlasted Francesca Schiavone in what turned out to be the third longest women’s singles match to have been played in the history of the French Open.
It took the two former champions three hours and 50 minutes before Schiavone staggered past the winning post and into the third round 6-7 (11-13) 7-5 10-8, but even that was no match going up against the epic they played at the 2011 Australian Open.
Schiavone also won on that occasion 16-14 in the deciding set after four hours, 44 minutes – the longest match in women’s grand slam history.