Former World No.1 Venus Williams reached the fourth round of the French Open for the 10th time in her landmark 20th appearance, knocking out rising Belgian star Elise Mertens in straight sets.
WTA Staff

PARIS, France - 2002 French Open finalist Venus Williams put on a vintage display to dispatch Belgium's Elise Mertens, 6-3, 6-1, to reach the fourth round of Roland Garros for the second year in a row.

"I'm not looking for any tests. I'm looking to run away with it," she joked of her seamless victory in post-match press. "My goal is to improve every round and today I feel like I improved even more than the last rounds and play the big points well.

"I feel confident that the next round is going to be another opportunity to improve and to play better and better. That's my focus at the moment."

It's been another impressive season for the five-time Wimbledon winner, who kicked off 2017 with a run to the Australian Open final; that form has cleanly translated to clay, on which she reached the Internazionali BNL d'Italia quarterfinals ahead of the French Open.

"I have played well here a number of times. Sometimes it didn't work out. Sometimes clay can be tricky. Sometimes a player catches fire and you don't have a good day.

"I think this year I'm playing really well strategically, and I'm enjoying it."

Mertens has been coming into her own this season herself, reaching two finals and winning her maiden WTA title at the Hobart International. Adjusting to clay came all at once for the 21-year-old, who scored a win over Elena Vesnina in Fed Cup and took that momentum into the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup, where she reached the final and fell to Porsche Race to Singapore No.1 Elina Svitolina.

Venus' far greater experience ultimately proved too much on Friday; racing out to 5-1 leads in each set, Mertens clawed back in the opener, but couldn't replicate that form in the second as the No.10 seed clinched victory in just over an hour on Court Philippe Chatrier.

But I really do love sliding...but I really do love the clay! @elevenbyvenus #RG17

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"For me, experience is only a plus. I feel like push comes to shove, 4-4, I'm going to have the experience of what it's like to be in that situation. For a young player, maybe this is their first third round but I have played a number of them. It's going to feel less climactic to me.

"It's going to be, 'Hey, I want to win this title.' It's not like, 'Oh, my god, third round is amazing.' That gives me an advantage."

In all, Venus hit 22 winners to 18 unforced errors and broke serve six times to book a rematch of last year's fourth round with 2015 French Open semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky. The Swiss star ended the miracle run of lucky loser Ons Jabeur and beat Venus when they last met in Paris.

"She's had great results in this tournament two years in a row, and last year she played flawless. She deserved the win.

"This year, of course, I have an opportunity to play better and that's what I'm going to try to do."