PARIS — Now and then, even a 23-time major singles champion needs to remind herself how to play winning tennis.
Serena Williams employed verbal motivation Friday to help her recover from a 4-1 deficit in the second set of a 6-4, 6-4 victory over fellow American Danielle Collins in the third round of the French Open.
While Williams may have been talking to herself when she shouted "C'mon!" and "Move your feet!", the big serves and crushed returns that ensued during a dominant run made a statement the 50th-ranked Collins couldn't answer.
"That felt really good for me," Williams said. "Things were not going my way. Its not like she gave me those games. I had to earn it and turn it around. That was really positive for me going into the next match.
"I needed to find me, know who I am. Nobody is Serena out here. It's me. It's pretty cool."
The turnaround was also evident in Collins' body language and conversations with herself. The 27-year-old Floridian, who grew up emulating the Williams sisters — Serena's older sister Venus owns seven Grand Slam singles titles — and playing on public courts just like they did, let her racket drop from her hands and then kicked it away in frustration after missing one particularly important shot.
Collins also sarcastically said "That's excellent" when she shanked another shot after a long rally that appeared to conclude with an awkward bounce in the final game.
A series of untimely double faults by Williams early in the second set enabled Collins to win four consecutive games, but her 39-year-old opponent clearly did not want to go the distance again after needing three sets to get by Mihaela Buzarnescu in the previous round. Williams had showed the same sort of determination during the first set Friday, when she ran down a drop shot from behind the court and won the point to break for a 4-3 lead.
When it was done, both players smiled as they shared a friendly embrace at the net. Collins said she told Williams she would "love to see her win the whole thing."
"She's the greatest player of all time," Collins said afterward. "I think we all admire and love Serena, especially the American players. It was pretty surreal today to go out there and be playing against somebody I remember watching at age 9 and 10."
It's not the first time Williams has been in such a situation.
"It's an interesting position to be in. I've been in that position, too, where I've played people that I really admired, but at the same time I wanted to win the match," Williams said. "So the tables have turned. They want to win, and they have nothing to lose. They start hitting lines, and you have to just realize you can hit the lines, too."
Still chasing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, Williams next faces 21st-seeded Elena Rybakina, who defeated Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-4 to reach the fourth round for the first time at a major. Williams, who also has 14 Grand Slam doubles titles with Venus and two in mixed doubles, hasn't won a major since the 2017 Australian Open, although she has reached the semifinals at six Grand Slam events and played for a title four times in that stretch.
Aside from Williams, who won French Open singles titles in 2002, '13 and '15, the top women continue to exit Roland Garros. The latest to go home was third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, who was upset by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-4, 2-6, 6-0.
Sabalenka had been the highest remaining seed after top-ranked Ash Barty retired from her second-round match due to injury Thursday. Second-seeded Naomi Osaka withdrew after the first round, saying she is taking a break from competition for mental health reasons.
Sabalenka's 39 unforced errors helped Pavlyuchenkova reach the fourth round for the first time since she made it to the quarterfinals in Paris a decade ago.
"That was a while ago," the 31st-seeded Pavlyuchenkova said. "I'm enjoying much more now every point (in) the tough matches than I used to before. I guess that also (is) the reason why I'm still here in the second week."
Pavlyuchenkova's next opponent is Victoria Azarenka, who beat 23rd-seeded Madison Keys 6-2, 6-2 in 70 minutes. Despite the loss for Keys, six players from the United States remain in the women's bracket, although Williams is the only one already through to the fourth round, and at least two of them will be eliminated due to all-American matchups in third-round matches set for Saturday.
As for the American men, their brief renaissance in Paris came to a crashing halt Friday. Not since 1996, when half a dozen U.S. men reached the third round, had as many as four players gone that far at the clay court major.
All four lost Friday: Marcos Giron to No. 22 seed Cristian Garin (6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2), Steve Johnson to No. 12 Pablo Carreno Busta (6-4, 6-4, 6-2), No. 32 Reilly Opelka to No. 2 Daniil Medvedev (6-4, 6-2, 6-4) and No. 31 John Isner to No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas (5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7), 6-1).
Off the court, 26-year-old Russian player Yana Sizikova was released from police custody after being arrested on suspicion of match-fixing during last year's tournament in Paris. She denies the allegations.