BEIJING, China - Having lost just one game to her at the US Open last month, Serena Williams really had to grind it out against Francesca Schiavone at the China Open on Tuesday, winning an extremely tight two-setter to move past the Italian and into the third round of the Premier Mandatory-level event.
At the beginning of the match it looked like it was going to be another mismatch - Williams fired three consecutive aces to hold serve, then got to double break point in Schiavone's first service game - but Schiavone held, and the two kept holding until Williams finally got the break to take the set, 6-4.
Schiavone retaliated straight away though, breaking in the first game of the second set and building a 5-3 lead. The Italian even had three set points in that 5-3 game - but the No.1-seeded Williams saved them all, eventually running off 15 of the last 17 points of the set to close the match out, 64 75.
"It didn't surprise me," Williams said. "I was definitely more surprised that I played so well in the Open, but it was a different circumstance - even though the scoreline looked much easier at the Open, it wasn't an easy match. But as for Francesca playing so well today, I wasn't surprised about that."
After the match the two exchanged a few words at the net - Williams was asked about that afterwards.
"I said, 'Good match.' I told her that she was really motivating because she's a little bit older than me, but she's so fit and just played so well today. For me, it was inspiring - that's what I told her."
Another inspiration for Williams is Beijing - she often talks about how important the Olympics are to her, and she actually won one of her four gold medals right here five years ago in the doubles event.
"I love the Olympics, and every time I come here, I think about them," Williams said. "Even playing doubles yesterday, we didn't win, but walking out on that court - that's where we won the gold medal.
"I loved it here, so it's great."
"She hit so many shots that were untouchable," Williams said. "She's one of those players when she's on, she's on - and she plays really well against a player she doesn't feel as much pressure against.
"I wanted to play well, but I think mostly she just played well and I didn't really take my chances when I had them. I think more than anything it was about holding serve, and I just didn't do that today.
"Against someone like her, you have to hold serve then get ready for a break, and I didn't do that."