WATCH: Williams eased through the opening set before things got more complicated in the second.

Serena Williams shook off a second-set hiccup on Court Philippe Chatrier to survive an inspired Mihaela Buzarnescu, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 to reach the third round of Roland Garros.

"I had some really good chances in the second set to win that if I would have won just one point here or there, like four or five times," Williams recalled after the match. "It would have been a different second set, so I know going into the third I just had zero in on those one important points. If I could just take those, it would be an easier time for me.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion was 1-2 on clay this season, heading into a major tournament she has won three times—most recently in 2015 as part of a second Non-Calendar Year “Serena” Slam—but is now a win away from returning to the second week in Paris for the first time since 2018.

After easing past Buzarnescu’s countrywoman Irina-Camelia in the opening round, saving two set points in the first set, Williams booked a first meeting with a former Top 20 player who incurred a career-interrupting ankle injury at the peak of her powers.

Buzarnescu had already been snake-bitten by injuries for most of her career, and has struggled to find the elite form that took her into the fourth round of Roland Garros that same year in 2018, falling to a four-year low of world No. 179 just two weeks ago.


2021 French Open - Day Four

2021 French Open - Day Four

Still, with tricky lefty swings and buoyed by a first-round victory over Arantxa Rus, the Romanian kept things close with Williams through most of the match, ceding the lone break of the opening set and led 4-2 in the second. Though the American rallied and looked poised to ride that momentum over the finish line, Buzarnescu held firm, nabbing a late break to level the contest at one set apiece.

Williams lifted her level considerably from there, racing out to a double-break advantage with the help of a scintillating forehand passing shot. The unseeded Romanian got on the board from there and though she gave the American one last fright, the No. 7 seeded Williams weathered the storm and move ahead 5-1, ending the clash in just over two hours.

Standing between the former world No. 1 and a spot in the fourth round will be fellow American Danielle Collins, who breezed through her second-round encounter with Anhelina Kalinina earlier on Wednesday.

"She's been playing well," Williams said, "especially when it's time to play, which is I guess all the time. She's also a really awesome person off the court.

"I love seeing her in the locker room. Ideally it would be great if we didn't have to play each other, because I always want her to do super well."

Williams and Collins played at the start of the 2021 season in Melbourne, where she advanced after a 10-point tiebreak in the quarterfinals of the Yarra Valley Classic.