Muguruza on the march, evergreen Venus advances

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Reigning champion Garbine Muguruza was joined by Svetlana Kuznetsova, Venus Williams and Kristina Mladenovic in advancing to the fourth round of the French Open on Friday, as the women's seeds in singles action avoided shocks at Roland Garros.

Muguruza needed only two sets to get past Yulia Putintseva, but Kuznetsova was made to work harder by Zhang Shuai.

Frenchwoman Mladenovic proved a popular winner in accounting for Shelby Rogers, whose fellow American Williams progressed with ease.

Caroline Wozniacki, must wait to learn her fate after the final match of the day, against CiCi Bellis, was delayed due to rain.

 

MUGURUZA, KUZNETSOVA ON TRACK

After stunning Serena Williams here to win her first grand slam in 2016, fourth seed Muguruza has struggled to hit those height again in the subsequent 12 months. 

Muguruza, though, remains in with a chance of retaining her crown thanks to a 7-5 6-2 victory over Putintseva, the Kazakh world number 29.

"It's important that each match I've played here has not been easy. I went out there without fear. I wanted the match, and I had to dictate the game," she said.

Kuznetsova, seeded eighth, received a sterner examination, eventually overcoming Zhang 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-5 to book a meeting with either Wozniacki or Bellis.

 

MLADENOVIC THRILLS HOME FANS

The highest-ranked Frenchwoman in the world, Mladenovic is the home crowd's most likely source of national pride in Paris. 

The 13th seed did not disappoint on Friday, holding firm to account for Rogers 7-5 4-6 8-6 after a thrilling encounter that drew a huge roar from the partisan supporters upon its completion.

"It was epic. That's the word I'm going to use, because I still don't know how I won that match," said Mladenovic.

A tougher test awaits in the fourth round, though, with holder Muguruza Mladenovic's next opponent. 

 

JABEUR'S LUCK RUNS OUT

Lucky loser Ons Jabeur had made the most of her good fortune at being handed a spot in the main draw, becoming the first Arab woman to reach the third round of a slam when she stunned world number seven Dominika Cibulkova.

There was to be no repeat of those heroics, though, Timea Bacsinszky running out a comfortable 6-2 6-2 winner against the Tunisian. 

 

VENUS TURNS BACK TIME

Bacsinszky's reward is a showdown with veteran great Williams. 

Flying the flag for the star American duo in the absence of her pregnant sister, Venus belied her 36 years to conqueror Belgium's Elise Mertens 6-3 6-1, two decades after her first appearance at the tournament.

"Twenty years ago? Wow," she said.

"I'll be honest, there won't be 20 more. I will be watching in 20 years with all of you guys."

In the other matches on Friday, former US Open champion Sam Stosur beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands in straight sets. The Australian's fourth-round opponent will be Jelena Ostapenko, who was also a straight-sets winner over Lesia Tsurenko.