Serena Williams advanced to the third round of the women's singles tournament at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, defeating Alize Cornet in straight sets Monday, 7-6 (5), 6-2.
While Williams entered the match as the favorite to advance, Cornet has given her trouble lately. The two had split their six head-to-head meetings in WTA tournaments, with Cornet coming out victorious in the last three.
The 26-year-old is the last woman to beat Williams at Wimbledon, knocking her out in the third round in 2014.
As if gaining a measure of revenge against Cornet wasn't enough to motivate Williams, this was also her first match since her loss in the opening round of the women's doubles tournament. She and sister Venus were previously unbeaten together in the Olympics.
Williams got off to a quick start Monday, jumping ahead 3-0 in the first set. But Cornet battled back in the next two games. The French star frustrated Williams with her dogged determination at the baseline. Her speed and recovery extended points and neutralized her opponent's heavy groundstrokes.
After dropping the fifth game of the set, Williams let her anger out on her racket.
NBC Olympics provided a look at the damage:
In the 10th game, Williams was serving just to stay in the set after Cornet had gone ahead 5-4. She staved off two set points before taking the game and tying the set.
Williams seemed to have things in control when she broke Cornet's serve in the 11th game and had an opportunity to serve for the set. However, she dropped the game, forcing a tiebreaker. She regained her composure to win the tiebreaker and go a set ahead.
ESPN.com's J.A. Adande was impressed by how hard Cornet pushed Williams:
Williams' emotions after winning the first set showed how much it meant for her, via NBC Olympics:
Having worked so hard to gain an early edge—only to come up empty—Cornet looked deflated in the second set. The shots she had been tracking earlier in the match started to elude her.
Williams also served better. She committed five double-faults in the first set but none in the second. Her win percentage on her second serve also climbed from 33 percent (8-of-24) to 57 percent (8-of-14).
Cornet made things interesting when she won the seventh game to close the deficit to 5-2 in the second set. A comeback wasn't in the cards, though, as Cornet had too much ground to make up with no room for error.
Williams will meet 15th-seeded Elina Svitolina in the next round. The two have played against each other four times in WTA events, with Williams owning a 4-0 edge. They last met at the 2016 French Open, with Williams brushing Svitolina aside in the fourth round, 6-1, 6-1.
Monday's match demonstrated Williams is far from invincible, and a tenacious, unpredictable opponent like Cornet can give her trouble. But based on her history against Svitolina, the No. 1 player in the world has a good chance to see herself through to the quarterfinals.