Serena battles past gutsy Mladenovic
Serena Williams had to grind it out to avoid becoming the latest high-profile casualty in the women’s draw at Wimbledon, as she defeated Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 7-6 (7-2) in the third round on Friday.
The seven-time winner had watched on as world number two Caroline Wozniacki, pre-tournament favourite Petra Kvitova and defending champion Garbine Muguruza all crashed out, with only two of the top 10 seeds remaining in the draw.
But Williams, whose sister Venus was knocked out by Kiki Bertens, fought past a valiant effort from Frenchwoman Mladenovic to avoid a similar fate and keep alive her hopes of a 24th grand slam title, and first since giving birth to her child Olympia Alexis last September.
Next up is a fourth-round date with Evgeniya Rodina after the Russian upset 10th seed Madison Keys earlier on Friday.
“Everyone is playing their A-game, so many top players have lost. I’m ready for anyone that I play” – @serenawilliams #Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/xe3zJ5VrLv
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 6, 2018
Williams was immediately required to rescue two break points, but could not hold off Mladenovic shortly afterwards when she was left rooted to the spot by a smart forehand.
Mladenovic initially swatted off attempts at a fightback until slipping as she attempted to serve out the set, seemingly hurting her knee, and allowing Williams to seize the initiative and level.
The world number 62 struggled to regain her composure and a double fault handed Williams the opener.
Mladenovic found the net to hand her esteemed opponent another break at the start of the second, but it was quickly cancelled out when Williams double faulted to compound a break to love.
Mladenovic continued to match her more illustrious opponent in the second set, but had to rely on a crunching forehand to deny Williams on match point when serving to stay in the contest at 6-5 down.
It proved a short reprieve, though, as Williams dominated the breaker to ensure she will be around for the second week.
Williams  bt Mladenovic 7-5 7-6 (7-2)
Williams – 27/19
Mladenovic – 26/11
Williams – 13/3
Mladenovic – 3/4
BREAK POINTS WON
Williams – 3/8
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Williams – 66
Mladenovic – 60
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Williams – 80/35
Mladenovic – 62/54
Williams – 85
Mladenovic – 79