Serena Williams sent out a warning to the rest of the depleted women’s draw on Friday with a dominant straight-sets win over Danielle Collins to reach the French Open last 16 for the first time since 2018.

The 39-year-old, still one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, won 6-4, 6-4.

Wide open

Serena, at eight, is now the highest seed left in her half of the draw, with all of the world’s top four absent from the second week.

Third seed Aryna Sabalenka was beaten by Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 2-6, 6-0.

The Belarusian made a whopping 39 unforced errors against 41 winners and served eight double faults to six aces as her disappointing run at the Grand Slam stage continued.

Serena will next face Kazakh 21st seed Elena Rybakina, with a potential quarter-final against old rival Victoria Azarenka up for grabs.

The American had a slight scare in the second set when she fell 1-4 behind against 2020 quarter-finalist Collins, but won the next five games to secure victory.

Serena thundered down five aces and hit 22 winners against Collins, winning in just 85 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Easing ahead

German sixth seed Alexander Zverev eased into the last 16 for the fourth successive year with a straight-sets win over Serbia’s Laslo Djere.

The 24-year-old, last year’s US Open runner-up, saw off the 55th-ranked Djere 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The comfortable nature of victory was welcome for Zverev, who had fought back from two sets down to beat unheralded compatriot Oscar Otte in round one before edging three tight sets against Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin.

“This is the main goal of my tennis career, to win Grand Slams. I feel like the last year I’m on the right track again,” said Zverev.

He will next face former World No.4 Kei Nishikori, whose third-round opponent Henri Laaksonen retired injured following the opening set.

Rain briefly hit Roland Garros on Friday, but Zverev and Djere were able to continue under the Chatrier roof.

The World No. 6 struck 31 winners and four aces as he dragged himself out of difficulty in the second set, saving three set points at 3-5 down on Djere’s serve before winning 10 of the next 12 games.

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