Williams dressed for success

Venus Williams reached the third round of the French Open for the ninth successive year today, but found herself answering more questions about her outfit than her performance.

Venus Williams reached the third round of the French Open for the ninth successive year today, but found herself answering more questions about her outfit than her performance.

The world number two’s serve, which had malfunctioned badly in her opening match, clicked into gear as she brushed aside Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-2 6-4 on Philippe Chatrier Court.

Having had major problems holding serve against Patty Schnyder, Williams was not broken once today, setting up a clash with 26th seed Dominika Cibulkova.

Williams wore the same self-designed black lace number she had unveiled against Schnyder, a see-through skirted bodice that would have left little to the imagination if not for a skin-coloured undergarment.

The 29-year-old denied the dress was deliberately provocative.

“That was never the objective,” said Williams, who caused a similar controversy with her choice of outfit at the Australian Open.

“It all started in Australia with the slits. I had a dress with really long slits in the front and it was about wearing a dress that looks like you have these slits with bareness.

“The design has nothing to do with the rear. It just so happens that I have a very well developed one!

“The illusion of just having bare skin is definitely, for me, a lot more beautiful.”

To the one question she was asked about today’s win, Williams replied: “On the bigger points, especially on my serve, I thought I played those really well, and I think that was key.”

Cibulkova avoided an upset after coming from a set down to crush Varvara Lepchenko 4-6 6-2 6-0 in the first match on Court Five.

Williams and Cibulkova’s matches were among just six of today’s women’s singles encounters to finish by mid-afternoon on a rain-hit fourth day at Roland Garros.

There were three delays in total, the second of them lasting for around an hour.

A shock was on the cards on Court One, with defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova having lost the first set against Andrea Petkovic 6-4.

There were no surprises in completed matches involving seeds, with Flavia Pennetta (14) following up her win over Britain’s Anne Keothavong with a 6-1 6-1 success against fellow Italian Roberta Vinci.

Nadia Petrova (19) was an equally comfortable 6-1 6-2 victor against Agnes Szavay, while Alexandra Dulgheru (31) eased past Timea Bacsinszky 6-4 6-2.

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