After a rough start to the evvent, Serena Williams has since shown that she absolutely can win No. 24 here.
PARIS — And then there were 32...players in both men's and singles draw. After five days of early-round matches, 75% of the players who entered this French Open with title hopes are dealing with disappointment. But for the rest of us, this is when the real drama starts.
Here are five thoughts on Day 5 of Roland Garros.
• We begin with Serena Williams. After her first set of the tournament, which she dropped 6-2 to a player ranked No. 90 in the world, this looked like it might be an ugly tournament. There was other reason to believe that, too—her lack of matches coming in, mainly. But in the four sets since, she's made it clear that she's on the short list of players most likely to win this title.
She faced a player on Thursday in Kurumi Nara that she should have beat easily, and she did beat her easily, never facing a break point and needing just 67 minutes to take care of business. Two matches isn't a full set of data, but Serena is rounding into form at just the right time.
• We've now seen Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer play two matches each, and neither player has dropped a set nor spent more than two hours on court in any one match. They have underscored the importance of getting through your shifts without a lot of complications. Good for guys like Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem for surviving, but they've both spent way more energy than you'd like to at this point in the tournament.
The best ones not only win, they win and ration energy. Rafa, Roger and Novak haven't been tested, which doesn't really make for great week-one drama, but there is a payoff in week two.
• Naomi Osaka has now won 16 straight matches at Grand Slams. Today we saw why. She was down a set and 4-2 to a former world No. 1, a smart veteran player and a two-time major champion in Victoria Azarenka. Then she summons a Serena-like turnaround, seemingly flipping the switch and deciding "I'm not going to miss now." Simply put, she battled to victory and showed why she's no flash in the sautee pan.
On the flip side, it's hard not to feel some pity for Azarenka, who is playing at a top-10 level but doesn't have much to show for it.
• With Taylor Fritz's straight-set defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut, there are officially no American men left in the Roland Garros draw. The only win in this event on the men's side, for a country with 350 million people and an extra wild card into the draw, was over Bernard Tomic, who looked like he'd rather be doing many other over playing tennis. Yes, John Isner and Sam Querrey didn't post and Jack Sock, who can play on the dirt, wasn't ranked high enough to get in the draw. Still, it was just an abysmally brutal week for the Americans, and if American Men Tennis was a business, these quarterly results would be deemed unacceptable.
• But the American women have been fantastic. Serena is a contender to win the title. Sloane Stephens is back playing well here, where she reached the final a year ago. Madison Keys is striking the ball well. Sofia Kenin, 20, will get a crack at Serena next round. And 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova crushed the No. 11 seed Aryna Sabalenka, using a second straight major to show the tennis world that she is the real deal.