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Venus Cruises Into QFs, Zvonareva Tops Serena

It was a mixed bag for the Williams sisters as they both continued their comebacks in Eastbourne.

Published June 15, 2011 12:00

Venus Cruises Into QFs, Zvonareva Tops Serena
Venus Williams

EASTBOURNE, England - It was a mixed bag for the Williams sisters on Wednesday in the second matches of their respective comebacks to the WTA, with Venus Williams cruising but Serena Williams falling in a nail-biter.

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Venus Williams, who beat No.8 seed Andrea Petkovic on Monday in her first match in four and a half months, was the first of the two to take Centre Court, and took just 62 minutes for a 63 62 win over Ana Ivanovic. The 30-year-old, who turns 31 on Friday, improved to 7-1 lifetime against Ivanovic.

"I was very happy to have those clean service games and not a lot of errors," Williams said. "I thought she played really well. When she had a chance to strike the ball she hit the corners. I felt good to be able to get on top of her today. I feel I'm playing well on the big points - these matches have been crucial for me to get back in the swing of things - literally in the swing of things."

Williams was asked about Eastbourne - this is her first trip there since 1998. "When the Sun shines, it's gorgeous. I don't remember too much from back in the days. I remember it rained a lot here, so we were forced to stay in. We didn't really get to do anything, just kind of waiting to practice or play a match. This year I've had the opportunity to go out a bit more. I quite like it. I took a walk around town a bit. I had a couple karaoke spots but didn't get a chance to go."

Serena Williams also had a 6-1 head-to-head lead going into her match but wasn't able to seal the deal against Vera Zvonareva and lost a three-hour, 12-minute marathon, 36 76(5) 75. Williams led 63 53 and, after losing the second set and falling behind 5-2 in the third, put on a valiant comeback to even the decider at 5-all - she even saved three match points down 5-4, two with winners - but it wasn't to be as Zvonareva won the last seven points of the match.

"Serena has done an unbelievable job coming back after almost a year of not playing," Zvonareva, this week's top seed, said in her on-court interview afterwards. "She spent more than three hours on the court today playing some unbelievable tennis. She's a great champion and I have a lot of respect for her."

"It was a good two matches for me. I couldn't be happier with the amount of tennis I've played - it's good," Williams said. "I definitely think I can do better, but that's what's so comforting, is I know I can do so much better and improve, and I'm so close to being there. One or two points and I could have won the match. That's just me not playing, not even holding a racquet for over eight months, then finally picking one up and being able to do that."

Williams was asked what she would do the rest of the week. "I'm just going to keep working out. I'm feeling good about my fitness. I was able to stay out there two hours yesterday and do a pretty tough three hours today. So I'm going to keep working on that and maybe hit a little later tomorrow and have a sleep-in.

"And support Venus. I should have said that first!" Williams added.

Other seeds snapping up berths in the final eight were No.3 seed Victoria Azarenka, who rallied from 5-3 down in the second set to beat British No.1 Elena Baltacha, 61 76(0); No.5 seed Petra Kvitova, who saved set points in both sets of a 76(8) 76(4) win over defending champion Ekaterina Makarova; No.6 seed Marion Bartoli, who rolled past María José Martínez Sánchez, 63 63; No.7 seed Sam Stosur, who beat teenage qualifier Bojana Jovanovski, 63 62; and Agnieszka Radwanska, who upset No.4 seed Francesca Schiavone, 63 62, her third straight set win in three meetings with the Italian this year.

In the last match of the day, Daniela Hantuchova fought off six set points in the first set and rallied from 3-1 down in the second to stun No.2 seed and new French Open champion Li Na, 76(7) 63. Both players were coming into the match off strong momentum - Li had won 15 of her last 17 matches, Hantuchova 11 of her last 14 - but this time the former Top 5 player got the better of the current Top 5 player, improving to 3-2 in their head-to-head series.

"Today I played the key points very well, which was the important part," Hantuchova said. "It feels really good to beat someone like her, coming off a Grand Slam victory. It means a lot to me. All the hard work is paying off."

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