After third-placed Aryna Sabalenka was upset by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova early Friday, Williams became one of only four remaining top 10 seeds in the women’s draw.
“That felt really good,” Williams said in her post-game press conference. “Things didn’t go to my liking. It’s not that she gave me these games. I had to earn it and turn it around. That was really positive for me to go into the next game.”
She aims to hit Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams, but has not made it through the fourth round at Roland Garros since 2016.
Williams, three-time French Open winner, was tested by her compatriot throughout the encounter.
In a tough opening set, Collins was forced to defend breakpoints and even a setpoint until Williams finally sealed the opening set with an ace.
And with an opening pause in the second set, it looked like Collins was going to collapse.
But despite the odds, the 27-year-old showed remarkable determination and raced through four games in a row to take a 4-1 lead.
Falling into that deficit seemed to wake Williams up as she won five straight games to qualify for the fourth round in Paris for the 13th time.
“After the 4-1 it was a bit disappointing,” said Collins afterwards. “I think Serena played really great tennis to come back. I don’t think I did my best in those moments. I just have to try to learn from that, hopefully do better next time and finish the set can.”
“I said [after the match] I would love to see her win it all and I would support her. I think we all admire and love Serena, especially the American players. It was pretty surreal today to play someone I saw when I was 9 and 10, to play here, to be here, to share this place with her, this experience. I hope I can be a stepping stone for them to win another slam. It would be really exciting and cool, so I’ll be following every point. “
Williams will now face Elena Rybakina from Kazakhstan, who is ranked 21st for a place in the quarter-finals.
In addition to Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty’s failures, there were some high profile causalities that opened the draw for others.
Sabalenka’s loss on Friday adds to the losses of top seeds like Karolina Pliskova, Bianca Andreescu and Belinda Bencic.
For Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slams, the chance to catch Court’s record may never be more present, but she plans to win her first Grand Slam title since 2017.