Paris: Serena Williams survived a major scare to move to within two wins of equalling Steffi Grafs Open era record of 22 grand slam singles titles.
A jubilant Serena Williams celebrates after her quarter-final 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 win over Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva at the French Open in Paris yesterday. Pic/AFP
Williams headed into the quarter-finals as a huge favourite to successfully defend her title but was panicky throughout the first two sets against Yulia Putintseva and was lucky to escape with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 victory.
Putintseva was making her first appearance in the last eight at a slam but it was Williams who looked nervous.
The Kazakh saw an early break snuffed out but did not let that worry her and broke again for 6-5 before serving out the set to love.
The 21-year-old whipped up the crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier, who were huddled under blankets in the cold and damp conditions. It was the first set Williams has lost on clay this year and the first time Putintseva has won a set against her.
The top seed looked to have put the danger behind her when she won four of the opening five games in the second set but back came Putintseva.
Williams could not get her feet moving in the heavy clay, although the culprit appeared more her head than the conditions.
Having seen her calendar Grand Slam hopes ended by Roberta Vinci at the US Open last year, Williams then allowed the occasion to get the better of her in the Australian Open final against Angelique Kerber in January.
When Putintseva twice forced break point at 4-4, Williams was staring at her worst slam loss since she was beaten by Virginie Razzano in the first round here four years ago.
Williams must have been a relieved woman when she sat down on her chair having finally held for 5-4, and it proved to be the end of Putintseva's hopes. From then, it was Serena all the way.