Tennis

Venus moves on to fourth round

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Richard Evans

Richard Evans has covered tennis since the 1960s, reporting on more than 150 Grand Slams. He is author of 15 books, including the official history of the Davis Cup and the unofficial history of the modern game in "Open Tennis." Follow him on Twitter.

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla.

She says it’s the Olympics that is motivating her, but truth is Venus Williams has always been like this: never knowing when to quit, fighting harder the tougher it gets, pulling off — if not the impossible — then the highly improbable.

Janko Tipsarevic

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The stakes are high in the Florida sun at the Sony Ericsson Open. View the photos.

And she did in the third round of the Sony Ericsson on a steamy Sunday afternoon, holding a Stadium Court audience enthralled as she saved a match point against the experienced Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak to pull off an amazing 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory.

In a gripping third set that contained all manner of wondrous winners and embarrassing errors, Venus climbed out of 15-40, 2-4 down by going for her blockbuster forehand, charging the net, searching for a first serve that was sometimes there for her and sometimes wasn’t.

Venus was still a little dazed as she tried to describe the roller coaster that had seen her defy fatigue and the need to step up again off the back of so little match practice two days after that memorable 6-0 third-set victory over Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

“My mentality is to go for broke,” Williams said. “And then from there I try to be sensible. So it’s a kind mix between that and — Wow!. That was the serve I wanted (on match point) , just a big one to hopefully force the issue.”

The 119 mph serve ended Wozniack’s gallant attempt to pull off one of the best wins of her career. The pair had never played before.

“She played well,” Venus continued. “It was tough out there. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her play as well as she did. Obviously she was close to the top 20 once so she has that tennis in her.”

But Venus was less clear on specifics.

“She had match point? Oh. Oh, no! Thank God I’m oblivious to the score a lot of times. Well, you know I just kept coming back. I tried not to let anything discourage me. I kept thinking about I really needed this match and I need these points. I keep thinking about the Olympics. I know if I don’t do the right thing I might not be there. That keeps me on the straight and narrow.”

She was asked why the Olympics had become the motivating factor in her recovery as she battles Sjogrens Disease.

“It’s just the ultimate level in sports,” she replied. “It’s about participating. It’s about the honor to be good enough to be there.”

Venus insists she always felt she would come back to the tour. “There were times when I would be scared for about five seconds, but it’s so easy to be afraid. I can’t spend time being afraid. I have to move forward.”

She is certainly doing that. And it won’t get any easier.

Venus will meet the rejuvenated former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round. Ivanovic eliminated tour veteran Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 7-6.

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Earlier, there had been an upset in the men’s singles when Tomas Berdych, the No 7 seed, went down 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to the 20-year-old Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.

A lot has been expected of the exceptionally talented Dimitrov and this may constitute a breakthrough for him as it was his first victory against a top 10 player in 10 attempts. He had beaten Berdych in their only other meeting in Rotterdam in 2009, but the Czech was only ranked 23rd at the time.

Dimitrov made arguably the shot of the tournament toward the end of the third set, when he slipped behind his baseline and returned the ball from a sitting position.

“I didn’t expect to play that well,” said Dimitrov, who received a word of congratulations from Serena Williams in the fitness room afterward. "She’s a good friend of mine,” he said.

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