Venus Edges Wozniak, Comeback Continues
Published March 25, 2012 12:00
MIAMI, FL, USA - Venus Williams overcame some rust, an inspired opponent and even a match point at the Sony Ericsson Open on Sunday, getting past Aleksandra Wozniak in a two-hour, 53-minute third round marathon.
Williams, playing her first WTA tournament since the US Open after taking time off to battle Sjögren's Syndrome, made a triumphant return to the courts with a 60 63 first round win over Kimiko Date-Krumm, then served notice with a 64 46 60 win against No.3 seed Petra Kvitova in the second round - her 600th win.
The biggest challenge was next, though, in the form of fellow wildcard Wozniak. Wozniak outsteadied a somewhat erratic Williams early on with her consistent, powerful baseline game, building a 64 20, 30-0 lead, seemingly on her way to a straight set win. But you don't earn the status of WTA legend without a big will to win - Williams not only came back to win the second set but she also rallied from 4-2 down, and a match point at 5-4 down, to take the third, eventually ending the match with a huge serve into the Canadian's body, 46 64 76(5).
"My mentality is to go for broke, and then from there I try to be sensible," Williams said of that 119mph delivery. "That was the serve I wanted, just a big one to hopefully force the issue, and thank God it went in. Wow.
"It was tough out there. It was made even tougher because she played well. I don't know if I've ever seen her play as well as she did. She was close to the Top 20, so she has that tennis in her. I have to give her a lot of credit."
Williams didn't even realize she was down match point. "She had match point?" she said when asked about it. "Thank God I'm oblivious to the score a lot of times. Oh my God, that's not good news. But I really tried not to let anything discourage me today. I kept thinking about how I really needed this match and those points. I kept thinking about the Olympics, and how I need my points.
"When things look bleak, I think about the Olympics. It keeps me motivated."
By reaching the fourth round, Williams is projected to rise from her current ranking of No.134 to just outside the Top 100 (in the No.101-110 range).
The highest seed in action in the day session was No.7 seed Marion Bartoli. She had her hands full in the second set of a 64 76(6) win over Simona Halep, rallying from 5-2 down and saving eight set points to steal the 84-minute set.
Other early winners were No.16 seed Dominika Cibulkova, who won 11 games from 1-2 in the first set to beat Zheng Jie, 62 60; No.22 seed Maria Kirilenko, who routed Ksenia Pervak, 62 61; and Spanish teen Garbiñe Muguruza Blanco, who continued her unlikely run in her first WTA main draw with a 62 16 76(5) upset of No.24 seed Flavia Pennetta, lifting her game on the important points - Pennetta actually won more points in the match, 105 to 98.
Cibulkova finished 2011 on a high with her first WTA title at the Premier-level event in Moscow, but 2012 has been somewhat disastrous so far - she came into Miami just 4-8 on the season. Now she is into the fourth round with a bullet.
"The match today was pretty good from my side. I played pretty well," Cibulkova said. "Finally after a long time I was just playing my tennis, which is really aggressive tennis - she usually hits fast and low, and I was hitting faster than her today. I was really going for my shots and I'm very satisfied with this win."
Muguruza Blanco's breakthrough week has also seen her snag her first Top 10 win over World No.9 Vera Zvonareva. "When you beat someone like Vera, you believe you can do it against other top players too," the 18-year-old said. "I felt nervous today, and Flavia was playing so well, but I did well on the important points at the end of the match. Now I'm feeling so happy, so happy."
"She's in very good shape and playing very well, and she's young, so she has nothing to lose," Pennetta said of Muguruza Blanco. "I didn't know her at all, so it was not easy for me in the first set, but from the second set I understood a bit more how to play her. In the last set we both played well. It was really tight."