Venus Williams narrowly avoided a second-round exit at the Australian Open today after battling back to overcome a leg injury and Czech opponent Sandra Zahlavova.
The fourth seed looked like suffering a defeat as shocking as her dress when she lost the first set on a tie-break and then took a medical time-out for treatment on her right leg.
But, despite initially struggling with her movement, she used all her experience to win 6-7 (6-8), 6-0, 6-4 against an opponent who had registered just one win at grand slam level entering the tournament.
The key moment in an enthralling final set came at 3-all when Williams broke to claim an advantage she never relinquished and set up a meeting with either Andrea Petkovic, the 30th seed from Germany, or British qualifier Anne Keothavong.
“It was really tough but I am such a long way from home and I didn’t want to go home just yet,” said Williams, who admitted the momentum swung her way at the start of the second set.
“I don’t know what happened, I just started going for shots and I am not sure she was as composed as before. You have to play under different circumstances.”
Elsewhere in the later matches, Maria Sharapova may have left Virginie Razzano with permanent ear damage after screaming her way to an error-strewn 7-6, 6-3 second-round victory over her French opponent.
Yelling mightily with effort on virtually every point, the former world No 1 spotted Razzano a 3-0 lead before pegging her back and finally taking an erratic first set on a tiebreak 7-3.
Sharapova, the Melbourne champion in 2008, pumped her fists yelling "Come on!" after pounding down a big serve to win the breaker, but her unpredictable play continued in the second set.
The Russian 14th seed roared with relief when she whacked a forehand crosscourt to take a 5-3 lead and the three-times grand slam champion threatened to break the sound barrier when she blasted down another huge serve to advance after a shade over two hours.