|Serena Williams beat unseeded Yulia Putintseva|
5-7, 6-4, 6-1 in the French Open quarterfinals.
2016 photo by Paul Bauman
1. Nerves could be starting to affect Serena Williams again. The top-ranked Williams avoided her third straight Grand Slam upset with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 victory over unseeded Yulia Putintseva, a 21-year-old Moscow native who plays for Kazakhstan, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1.
The 60th-ranked Putintseva, only 5-foot-4 (1.63 meters), had two break points at 4-4 in the second set of her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Williams, 34, is attempting to tie Steffi Graf with 22 career Grand Slam singles titles, second behind Margaret Court's 24.
While trying to earn the first calendar-year Grand Slam in singles since Graf in 1988, Williams lost to 43rd-ranked Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals last September. Williams then fell to sixth-ranked Angelique Kerber in the Australian Open final in January.
2. Williams is scheduled to play another unseeded player, red-hot Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, in the semifinals on Friday at 4 a.m. PDT.
Bertens, 24, ousted eighth-seeded Timea Bacsinszky, seeking her second straight French Open semifinal, 7-5, 6-2 for her 12th straight victory.
The 6-foot (1.82-meter) Bertens swept the Nuremberg singles and doubles titles (qualifying in singles) the week before the French Open.
Bertens has knocked off four seeds -- No. 3 Kerber, No. 29 Daria Kasatkina, No. 15 Madison Keys and Bacsinszky -- to become the first Dutch woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Betty Stove in 1977.
Williams could be extremely tight as the heavy favorite in the semifinals while pursuing a place in history. Bertens, meanwhile, figures to be very loose with nothing to lose.
Williams defeated Bertens 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the second round of the U.S. Open last year in their only career meeting.
Fourth-seeded Garbine Muguruza, 22, of Spain will meet 21st-seeded Samantha Stosur, 32, of Australia in the other semifinal on Friday at 4 a.m.
Stosur beat Muguruza 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 in the second round on clay at Madrid in 2014 in their only career encounter.
3. Top-ranked Novak Djokovic continued his mastery over seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 quarterfinal victory.
Djokovic, trying to become the eighth man to achieve a career Grand Slam in singles, is 24-2 with an 11-match winning streak against Berdych.
4. Djokovic is set to face 13th-seeded Dominic Thiem on Friday not before 6 a.m.
Thiem, a 22-year-old Austrian, topped 12th-seeded David Goffin of Belgium 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-1 in the first Grand Slam quarterfinal for both players.
Djokovic is 2-0 lifetime against Thiem, winning both matches 6-3, 6-4 on hardcourts.
In Friday's other semifinal not before 6 a.m., second-seeded Andy Murray will take on third-seeded Stan Wawrinka, the defending champion.
Murray leads the head-to-head series 8-7, but Wawrinka has won the last three matches and is 2-0 against Murray on clay.
5. Second-seeded Amanda Anisimova, 14, of Hallandale Beach, Fla., beat unseeded Michaela Gordon of Saratoga, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area 6-0, 1-6, 6-4 in the third round of the junior girls event.
Earlier today, Gordon advanced with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over unseeded Melany Krywoj of Argentina.