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French Open: Serena Williams-Azarenka encounter headlines third round

Not many ladies on the WTA tour can boast three victories over world number one Serena Williams, but French Open third round foe Victoria Azarenka is one of them.

Grand Slam great Serena is Coral’s 9/4 favourite to regain the Roland Garros crown, having ceded it to Russian racket star Maria Sharapova following a shock early exit last year.

Tennis 2015 - Mutua Madrid Open - Day 5

Williams (odds-on at 4/11 to advance from her next assignment) will thus want to avoid bowing out during the first week again and, despite those aforementioned losses to Belarus’ biggest sporting name Azarenka (still a tasty 2/1 to win their match), has never been beaten on clay by this opponent.

Three of the last four head-to-heads have gone to a third set, so punters can increase Serena’s odds to 11/4 or those of Azarenka to 9/2, if you back your chosen tennis star for victory but their clash to go the distance.

Either Williams or Azarenka will play the winner of Sloane Stephens v Tsvetana Pironkova in round four. Serena will hope to face her fellow American at that stage, provided she gets through a tough test herself, as young pretender Stephens eliminated sister Venus in round one and follow that up by knocking out British hope Heather Watson.

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Stephens is an odds-on 2/7 chance to add the Bulgarian to her hit-list, and has two career victories against Pironkova under her belt already, including a victory on clay in three sets from 2013. If you fancy that to happen again, then take odds of 11/4, but be aware that the 22-year-old has beaten her last couple of opponents in straight sets.

Elsewhere in the French Open ladies’ singles draw this weekend, fourth seed and two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova takes on Irina-Camelia Begu, the highest ranked Romanian left in the competition following Simona Halep’s surprising early exit.

Czech Republic hope Kvitova already holds a straight sets victory on clay over her opponent this season, at the Madrid Masters, so you can enhance an odds-on 4/11 price to 10/11 for a repeat result here.

The victor there shall face another one of two top 25 players; Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland or another young American in Madison Keys. It’s a first-ever meeting between this pair, and Keys is an 11/10 outsider respite being ranked eight places below her third round opponent according to the WTA.

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Italian pair Sara Errani and Francesca Schiavone will fancy their chances of reaching the quarter-finals, with their respective sections looking to favour clay court specialists which they are.

Errani encounters 10th seed Andrea Petkovic and, although is 2-1 down from their head-to-heads, will be out to avenge a surprise French Open loss to the German 12 months ago. Both these ladies are rated equal 5/6 chances to advance to round four.

Schiavone, meanwhile, is showing age to be no barrier at 34 after knocking out Svetlana Kuznetsova, and now meets Romania’s Andreea Mitu for the first time. It’s 10/11 that the veteran eliminates the woman ranked 100th in the world here.