Roland Garros: Rafael Nadal drops a set before brushing aside David Goffin in Paris

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Rafael Nadal dropped a set at the French Open for only the second time since 2015 but recovered to beat David Goffin and reach the fourth round.

The 11-time champion had won all his matches in straight sets the last three years apart from in the quarter-finals 12 months ago, when he lost one set against Diego Schwartzman.

Nadal tore through the opening two sets against 27th seed Goffin but the Belgian fought back impressively to take the third before the Spaniard completed a 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-3 victory.

The win saw Nadal match Federer, who defeated Casper Ruud earlier, by making the last 16 here for the 14th time, an all-time record.

On the 10th anniversary of his most famous defeat, when he was beaten in the fourth round by Robin Soderling to lose on the Paris clay for the first time, Nadal seemed in a hurry to write a happier story on May 31.

He raced through the first five games, and Goffin, who had won his first two matches with impressive ease, struggled simply to get a foothold in the match.

But things changed in the third set as Goffin matched his opponent stride for stride before breaking serve for the first time in the match in the ninth game and serving it out.

It was the first set Goffin has managed to win against Nadal in four meetings on clay, and the earliest round in which the 32-year-old has lost a set here for six years.

But Goffin was unable to turn a set into a real challenge to Nadal, who wrapped up victory after two hours and 49 minutes.

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French Open 2019: Naomi Osaka leaves it late to fight back against Victoria Azarenka

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Naomi Osaka.

Naomi Osaka continued to live dangerously at the French Open but her hopes of a third successive grand slam title remain intact after a comeback win against Victoria Azarenka.

The 21-year-old lost the first set 6-0 against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the first round on Tuesday and was two points from defeat.

Things did not get quite so hairy against former world No1 Azarenka in a high-quality match but the top seed was a set and a break down before recovering to win 4-6 7-5 6-3.

Osaka said: “After a certain point, I don’t even look at the score. I just try to take it point by point. I have this mindset that I feel like I can win if it gets down to the wire. If I have to break a person, I feel like I have the ability to do that. So I probably shouldn’t wait until the last minute.”

Osaka, who said she had never been more nervous during a match than against Schmiedlova, again made a poor start, with Azarenka winning the first four games.

Two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka has been getting closer to her best form having finally returned full-time to the tour last spring following a bruising custody battle over her toddler son.

She weathered an Osaka fightback to take the opening set and then opened up a 4-2 lead in the second but the Japanese player showed in winning the Australian Open that she can find a way back from most situations and she levelled the match before opening up a 5-1 lead in the decider.

“Today I kind of felt like a challenger,” said Osaka. “I know she went to the semis here before, so obviously she has a lot more experience here. She won grand slams and she was number one way before I was. I’m still kind of new at this.”

Azarenka, now 29, has lifted her ranking to 43 but, while she is unseeded, she runs the risk of difficult early draws like this.

“She’s been a lot in those situations where those margins are really small,” said Azarenka. “I need to have some more of those experiences. But I’m pretty positive that I can take a lot of things out of this match and turn them into positive for my next tournaments.”

Serena Williams also had her difficulties in the first round, losing her opening set to Vitalia Diatchenko, but she was much more comfortable in a 6-3 6-2 victory over Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara.

Williams has been struggling with a knee problem and this is the first tournament since the Australian Open in which she has completed two matches.

She was asked afterwards about a picture taken on the eve of the tournament at Disneyland showing Williams in a wheelchair.

Asked about it after the win over Nara, she said: “I’m not going to get into that. I’m playing, and all’s good.”

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Struggling Serena Williams considered skipping the French Open

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Serena Williams.

Serena Williams admitted skipping the French Open “crossed my mind every day” after recovering from a horror start to her campaign to beat Vitalia Diatchenko.

Williams arrived in Paris having played just four tournaments this year, withdrawing from all of them except the Australian Open, where she lost from 5-1 up in the deciding set of her quarter-final against Karolina Pliskova.

Latterly Williams has been troubled by a left knee problem, and a picture of her sitting in a wheelchair last week when she took her daughter to Disneyland added to concerns about her fitness.

She looked nervous and rusty as Russian Diatchenko, ranked 83rd, took the opening set amid a slew of errors from her opponent, but a roar of frustration let out by Williams seemed to turn things in the right direction and she lost only one of the last 13 games. Serena thus racked up her 800th career main draw win with her 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory.

“I just got nervous out there and I stopped moving my feet,” said Williams. “And it was like concrete blocks on my feet. I was, like, ‘You’ve got to do something’.

“I was just making so many errors. Every shot I hit, I felt like I was hitting on my frame. I usually don’t hit balls on my frame. I was just off, basically. And then instead of correcting it, I just kept getting worse.

“I knew it couldn’t get worse, and I knew I could only go up. That’s what I told myself. I’ve just got to keep positive.”

Of the roar, Williams added: “I just was so frustrated at that point, because I have been training well. I just let out this roar, and here I am. So maybe that helped.”

She also tried tweaking her outfit, pulling on a black top, and putting her hair up in a bun as she sought a change in fortune.

“I just needed to change,” she said. “I was, like, ‘I’ve got to try something different’. It’s not my forehand, it’s my clothes, right?”

Twelve months after making her grand slam return in a catsuit that was eventually banned, Williams wore a striking two-piece outfit and, for her entrance, a cape covered with the words ‘queen’, ‘champion’, ‘goddess’ and ‘mum’ in French.

She has proved many times in the past that her form going into a grand slam is not a reliable indicator of how she might fare, but it would be her most remarkable triumph yet if she could win a 24th grand slam singles title here.

Williams hesitated whether to even play at Roland Garros, saying: “It crossed my mind every day, but I’m here. And to do the best that I can do.”

Fourth seed Kiki Bertens, who is hotly fancied to do well, made a confident start with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Pauline Parmentier but 13th seed Caroline Wozniacki crashed out 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 to Russian Viktoria Kudermetova.

Wozniacki has been struggling with a left calf injury, and she said: “I think I played really well in the first set. And then I think she got very lucky at the start of the second set and took advantage of the opportunities she got.

“And then I think I just lost a little steam in the end and I made some unforced errors that I normally don’t do, so that was very frustrating. I haven’t had the best lead-up to this tournament.”

Sixth seed Petra Kvitova did not take to the court for her scheduled clash with Sorana Cirstea after being diagnosed with a grade two muscle tear in her left forearm.

The two-time Wimbledon champion is hopeful of being fit for the grass-court season.

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