PARIS, France - No.9 seed Venus Williams survived a second set surge from Alizé Cornet to win a sixth straight match against the Frenchwoman, 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-0, to reach the second week of Roland Garros for the first time in six years.
The 2002 finalist came into Paris having won just two matches in her last four French Open appearances, but heads into the second week having dropped just one set in her first three matches, though this marked her toughest test yet against Cornet, who played her best match against the American in her career.
Williams and Cornet emerged on Court Suzanne Lenglen from a brief rain delay to resume the first set, and though Cornet led by a late break, the former No.1 reclaimed the initiative and served out a tense tie-break with some fiercesome serving.
"After the break I felt a lot more clear about what I wanted to accomplish," she said in her post-match press conference. "It's never easy to play in France against a French player. Probably not easy for them either. So that's the extra pressure against you.
"Honestly, she played really well. In the third I was able to capitalize on a couple of her errors, play some good points, and go on to the next match, literally," referring to her doubles match with sister Serena, which was suspended due to darkness after they took the first set from Vitalia Diatchenko and Galina Voskoboeva.
Undaunted, Cornet rode her building momentum and the support of the French crowd to her first set over the elder Williams sister, roaring through the second set to force a decider.
"She's a great competitor and it's always a tough match," Williams said in her on-court interview.
The turning point for the World No.11 came a game into the final set; with Cornet serving up 30-0, Venus clawed back to break serve and it was one-way traffic from then on, clinching the match in just over two hours.
"I had some luck in the end on the important points, and I'm so excited to be in the next round.
"I've had some issues in the past, but what can you do? Every year is different, and I'm trying to make this year my best yet.
"I love tennis, and today I was just telling myself to enjoy the battle and to compete. With Alizé, it's always a battle and you always have to compete.
"What can I say? I'm doing what I love every day and I couldn't ask for more."
Standing between Williams and a spot in her first French Open quarterfinal in 10 years is No.8 seed Tima Bacsinszky. The 2015 French Open semifinalist has never beaten the American in their two previous encounters, but the two haven't played since the 2014 US Open, and neither encounter came on clay.