Williams battles back from brink

Serena Williams dug deep on centre court to earn a spot in the fourth round of the Australian Open while defending champion Amelie Mauresmo continued to impress on day five at Melbourne Park.

Serena Williams dug deep on centre court to earn a spot in the fourth round of the Australian Open while defending champion Amelie Mauresmo continued to impress on day five at Melbourne Park.

Number five seed Nadia Petrova had Williams in all kinds of trouble early in their encounter with the Russian taking the first set with ease and then breaking the American’s serve in the second to be well on her way to advancing.

However, the former champion refused to yield and pulled out a dazzling array of groundstrokes to rally back from the brink to take the match 1-6 7-5 6-3.

Petrova said afterwards that she had expected Williams to be a very tough opponent despite her being unseeded at the tournament.

“[I’m] not surprised at all,” she said. “They’ve always been tough competitors, her and her sister.

“I also find that they usually have a bit of a struggle in the first rounds against average players.

“Whenever they have to play a tough opponent, they are raising their game, and they feel a bit more free and are going for the shots.”

Williams, having dumped out the the number five seed, now faces the in-form Jelena Jankovic in the fourth round after the Serbian strode to a 6-3 6-4 victory over Belarusian Victoria Azarenka.

Number 11 seed Jankovic, having lost just one match this year, was once again in clinical form as she halted her unseeded opponent’s run.

With a clash against a former world number one standing in her way of making the quarter-finals, Jankovic believes she will have to improve in order to come away with a win.

“This was a good match to get under my belt. I played an opponent who doesn’t have anything to lose. She has no pressure. It’s always good to win like that,” she said.

“Next match I have, which is Serena Williams, is tough. I’ve beaten her before, but I expect a tough match and hope to do well.

“I’m looking forward to playing Serena. She’s playing well. I will try to give my best and we’ll see how it will go.”

Mauresmo, meanwhile, also continues to go from strength to strength as she attempts to defend her title at Melbourne Park.

Yet to drop a set from her three outings, the number two seed was again stunning as she sailed to a 6-3 6-1 victory over Czech Eva Birnerova.

The win, which was notable for just three unforced errors in the entire second set, means Mauresmo will now meet Lucie Safarova in the fourth round.

However, despite her strong start to the tournament, the Frenchwoman still believes there is room for improvement in her game.

“I have mixed feelings about today’s match. I started not the way I wanted to, and [I was] definitely making way too many unforced errors,” she said.

“But it happens. I was able at the end of the first set and in the second set to really find a little bit more of my rhythm, especially on the forehand side.

“I’m really looking forward to the doubles tomorrow and then the next singles match.”

In an all-Russian affair on centre court, former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova proved too good for Maria Kirilenko, bundling her out in straight sets.

In an explosive display of power, the number three seed muscled her way to a 6-1 6-4 victory in just over an hour.

Kuznetsova will now lock horns with Shahar Peer after the Israeli outlasted Tatiana Golovin 3-6 7-5 7-5, while number seven seed Elena Dementieva easily overcame Italy’s Maria Elena Camerin 6-1 6-3.

As a result, Dementieva will now go toe-to-toe with number 10 seed Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic, who proved too good for Katarina Srebotnik 6-4 6-4.

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