Serena Williams today revealed she was suffering with a cold and sickness bug after a medical time-out helped her recover from a second-set malaise to reach the last 16 of the French Open.
World number one Williams lost five games in a row midway through her third-round match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova before calling on the tournament doctor.
Despite continuing to look rather unwell between points, the 28-year-old was able to eke out a 6-1 1-6 6-2 victory after one hour 48 minutes on an overcast Philippe Chatrier Court.
Speaking before heading back out for a women’s doubles match with sister Venus, Williams said: “I just ran out of a little energy out there. Just fighting a cold and fighting sickness.
“But I’m just feeling better and getting ready for doubles.”
Assessing her overall performance against 29th seed Pavlyuchenkova, who was a third straight opponent in the tournament she had never previously faced, 2002 champion Williams added: “I played all right. I definitely wasn’t at my best.
“I just was happy to win, especially against a player that’s on the up and up.”
Pavlyuchenkova joked afterwards she was hoping Williams was going to retire after she called for the doctor at 5-0 down in the second set.
The 18-year-old said: “I really wished so. I was like, ’Please?’
“No, I’m just kidding, of course.
“I knew that she’s quite motivated for this tournament. She hasn’t won it so many times like Australian Open or US Open, for example.
“She was maybe a little bit dizzy, but she was still walking and feeling okay physically.”
Williams will play Shahar Peer in round four after the 18th seed ended the run of French hope Marion Bartoli, winning 7-6 (9/7) 6-2.
Sister Venus, meanwhile, will take on Nadia Petrova after the Russian completed a bad day for the hosts by finally sending Aravane Rezai packing.
Nineteenth seed Petrova and Rezai (15) saw their epic third-round match postponed at 7-7 in the decider late last night.
Both players arrived on Philippe Chatrier this afternoon having wasted three match points and a quick finish looked unlikely when they were each broken in their opening service games.
But Rezai dropped serve again and Petrova held her nerve to seal a 6-7 (2/7) 6-4 10-8 win.
Rezai revealed afterwards she was had a major comedown after last night’s exploits.
“This morning, I was very tired, especially mentally, because yesterday there was a lot of people, a lot of emotion and the crowd was amazing,” she said.
“It takes energy. So this morning I was a little bit without energy.”
There were also wins for Daniela Hantuchova (23), who upset Yanina Wickmayer (16), and Yaroslava Shvedova, who ousted a second seeded player with a 6-2 4-6 6-0 victory over Alisa Kleybanova (28).
Shvedova will now play Jarmila Groth, who beat fellow Australian Anastasia Rodionova 6-3 5-7 6-2.
Still to come later in the afternoon was the match of the tournament so far between Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova.