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Venus turns back the clock, moves forward into French Open third round

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 26: Venus Williams celebrates hits a forehand during the Ladies Singles second round match against Luisa Chirico of the United States on day five of the 2016 French Open at Roland Garros on May 26, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
May 26, 2016 03:09 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

One of tennis’ greatest champions took center stage against one of America’s brightest up-and-coming stars on Thursday, with the veteran turning back the clock to remind people that there’s no substitute for experience on the red clay of Paris.

Venus Williams defeated American qualifier Louisa Chirico, 6-2, 6-1, in 54 minutes on Court Suzanne Lenglen on Day 5 of the French Open, remaining on track to possibly meet younger sister Serena in the semifinals.

Playing in her 19th French Open, the ninth-seeded Williams hit 22 winners to 20-year-old Chirico’s six, and she broke serve four times without facing a single break point herself.

Venus, a five-time Wimbledon champion and two-time US Open winner, has historically struggled on clay. While the French Open runner-up to Serena in 2002, Venus has otherwise not advanced past the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and had not progressed past the second round since 2010, when she reached the fourth round.

But with Thursday’s victory, the 35-year-old former world No. 1 is now set to play 50th-ranked Alize Cornet of France for a spot in the final 16.

The 2015 season represented Venus’ best season in five years. But despite runs to the final eight in Melbourne and a fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon, it was her second opening-round loss in three years in Paris that led some to question whether she would ever make another charge at an eighth Grand Slam women’s singles title – a charge she answered by reaching the US Open quarterfinals, where she dropped a three-setter to Serena, and closing the season with titles in Wuhan and Zhuhai.

Should Venus continue her fine form in the French capital, she would play either No. 8 seed Timea Bacsinszky or Pauline Parmentier in the fourth round. Fellow American Madison Keys could potentially await in the quarters, with the winner of that match set for a possible blockbuster showdown with Serena in the semis.

Like Venus, Serena needed less than an hour on court to dispatch Brazil’s Teliana Pereira, 6-2, 6-1. The top seed will play No. 26 seed Kristina Mladenovic of France in the third round on Saturday.

Also advancing on Day 5 was No. 15 seed Madison Keys, who toppled Colombia’s Mariana Duque-Mariño, 6-3, 6-2, on Court 3. Keys will meet Monica Puig, who outlasted Julia Goerges on Thursday evening.

Elsewhere, American Irina Falconi lost to Parmentier and Taylor Townsend fell to No. 18 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.