When Serena Williams had won the final point on Sunday, she paused behind the baseline to urge herself on with one last fist pump.
“Come on!” she shouted, as if her work wasn’t done which it isn’t.
Williams earned a berth in the French Open quarterfinals and extended her career-best winning streak to 28 matches by beating No. 15-seeded Roberta Vinci 6-1, 6-3.
It was her toughest test of the first week, but she swept the last 10 points and has lost only 10 games through four rounds.
“I just want every point,” she said. “Every match I’m really focused for the whole period of time. I really want it every match.”
The 15-time Grand Slam champion next plays 2009 French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova. With a victory, Williams would earn her first berth in a French Open semifinal since 2003.
She won her lone Roland Garros title in 2002.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, ranked 39th but rejuvenated this year, beat No. 8-seeded Angelique Kerber 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. In men’s play, David Ferrer reached the quarterfinals for the sixth Grand Slam in a row by beating Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.
Vinci tried everything to get Williams off balance. The Italian played serve and volley, attempted to chip and charge and mixed the pace of her groundstrokes, including an occasional drop shot.
“She played really smart,” Williams said. “I knew how she was going to play. Some of the things she did I definitely expected, and I just had to come up with an answer.”
Williams answered forcefully, whacking second serves harder than Vinci’s first serves, and her persistent power proved the difference.
Serving in the opening game of the second set, Williams fell behind love-30, as if trying to make it a fair fight. She then hit an ace, kissed a forehand winner off a line, won the next point with another booming groundstroke and closed out the game with a drop-shot winner.
“It was not easy to win today,” Williams told the centre court crowd afterward in French, “but I’m very happy, and I’m ready for the next round.”
She improved to 20-0 this year on clay. Since losing in the first round a year ago at Roland Garros, Williams is 71-3, including titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the London Olympics and the season-ending WTA Championships.
Williams first reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in 2001, when she was 19. Now she’s 31 and the oldest player in the top 10.
“She’s the best in the world so far,” said Kuznetsova, who is 2-6 against Williams. “She has been playing unbelievable tennis. But I believe that I have game and my good days as well. Let’s cross fingers I will have a good day.”
Kuznetsova won when they met in the 2009 quarterfinals at Roland Garros and went on to the title.
The Russian has now reached the final eight in back-to-back major tournaments for the first time since that year. She made the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January before losing to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka.
“Grand Slams always bring the best out of me,” Kuznetsova said. “It just comes naturally. Here it’s the French Open it says everything.”
Kuznetsova whacked a forehand winner on match point, then let out a jubilant scream. She improved to 12-2 this year in three-set matches, and her winning percentage of .820 (41-9) at Roland Garros is the best among active players.
Ferrer, seeded No. 4, converted 6 of 17 break-point chances against Anderson. Ferrer held every service game and committed only 11 unforced errors to 41 for the South African, seeded No. 23.
When the Spaniard closed out the victory, he looked to the blue sky and raised both fists. His next opponent will be the winner of the match between two other Spaniards, No. 11 Nicolas Almagro and No. 32 Tommy Robredo.
Ferrer has won four matches without dropping a set. He’s a four-time major semifinalist, including at Roland Garros last year, but hasn’t reached a final.