After No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka was upset early Friday by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Williams became one of just four Top 10 seeds left in the women’s draw.
“That felt really good for me,” Williams said afterwards in her post-match press conference. “Things were not going my way. It’s 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.
She is aiming to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slams, but has not made it past the fourth-round at Roland Garros since 2016.
Williams, a three-time French Open champion, was tested throughout the whole encounter by her compatriot.
In a big-hitting, guns blazing first set, Collins was forced to defend break points and even a set point until eventually, Williams was able to seal the opening set with an ace.
And with an opening break in the second set, it looked like Collins might crumble.
But, showing remarkable resolve in the face of adversity, the 27-year-old rattled off four consecutive games to race into a 4-1 lead.
Falling into that deficit seemed to wake up Williams, as she won five straight games to qualify for the fourth-round in Paris for the 13th time.
“It was a bit disappointing after being up 4-1,” Collins said afterwards. “I think Serena played some really great tennis to come back. I don’t think I played my best in those moments. I just have to try to learn from it, hopefully do better next time and be able to close out the set.
“I said [after the match] I’d love to see her win the whole thing and I’d be supporting her. 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, playing here, to be here, to be sharing that court with her, this experience. I hope that I can be a steppingstone to her winning another slam. It would be really exciting and cool, so I’m going to be following every point.”
Williams will now face Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, the No. 21 seed, for a place in the quarterfinals.
In addition to the withdrawals of Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty, there have been some high-profile causalities that have opened up the draw for others.
Sabalenka’s defeat on Friday adds to losses from top seeds including Karolina Pliskova, Bianca Andreescu and Belinda Bencic.
For Williams, who has won 23 grand slams, a chance at equaling Court’s record might never be more presentable, but she is looking to win her first grand slam title since 2017.