x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Rain continues havoc as Venus weathers Date-Krumm storm

The 23rd seeded American survives a three-set battle with her 40-year-old opponent as organisers grapple with backlog of matches on third day.

Venus "thankfully has some answers" to a spirited fight from Date-Krumm.
Venus "thankfully has some answers" to a spirited fight from Date-Krumm.

LONDON // It was Venus's turn to supply the unique Williams family drama at Wimbledon on Wednesday as she survived a gripping three-set battle with 40-year-old Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm.

A day after her younger sister Serena broke down in tears after beating Aravane Rezai in three sets, 23rd seed Venus was made to sweat buckets under the roof for a 6-7, 3-6, 8-6 win that lasted just under three hours.

Date-Krumm, who on Monday became the second oldest player to win a singles match at the championships, stood toe to toe with the American in a spellbinding duel that ebbed and flowed in front of a packed stadium.

Action was in short supply elsewhere with rain delaying play on the other courts but Williams and Date-Krumm provided a whole day's worth of it in a scrap that was an early contender for match of the tournament.

"I thought she played unbelievable today," Williams, who returned from a five-month injury layoff at Eastbourne last week, told reporters.

"I thought she had some luck on her side, too, with net cords, balls hitting lines. I just thought today was a perfect storm for her to try to get a win.

"Thankfully I had some answers."

Play finally started elsewhere around the All England Club at 1430 GMT (16.30 local time) with organisers desperately hoping for a dry slot to work through a growing backlog of matches including first-round singles clashes.

Men's defending champion Rafael Nadal did not have to worry about the soggy English summer as his Centre Court clash with American Ryan Sweeting also started under the cover of the retractable roof.

It was to be the Spaniard's first experience of "indoor" grasscourt tennis but Andy Murray, Britain's great hope, remained at the mercy of the elements with his second-round match against Tobias Kamke scheduled for Court One.

Date-Krumm made her Wimbledon debut in 1989 when the Williams sisters were still bashing balls about on park courts in Compton and a Centre Court roof was still a pipe dream.

You have to scroll back to 1996 for her best performance here when she lost to Steffi Graf in the semi-finals before taking a 12-year break from tennis.

Monday's win over Britain Katie O'Brien was actually her first Wimbledon singles victory for 14 years and she came desperately close to another as she pushed five-times champion Williams to the limit.

After breaking the slow-starting American's first three service games for a 5-1 lead, she let the advantage slip and was wasteful again when a 6-2 lead in the tie-break leaked away.

She eventually clinched the tiebreak 8-6 but Williams upped her game to level the match before moving 2-0 up in the decider.

Date-Krumm continued hitting the ball unerringly flat and close to the lines to work her way back to 2-2 and she stayed with the American until the death.

Finally, serving at 6-7 Date-Krumm buckled and her fate was sealed when a backhand narrowly missed the line.

Last year's men's runner-up Tomas Berdych wasted no time when he finally got on court, the sixth seed cruising past Frenchman Julien Benneteau 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 and 10th seeded American Mardy Fish also progressed with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.