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.”
Caroline Wozniacki’s bid to land her first grand slam crown gathered pace as she secured a convincing win over Vania King to ease into round three.
The Dane, who has risen to the world number one spot despite a modest record at the majors, was far too good for American King, winning 6-1 6-0 in under an hour.
It was a marked improvement on her opening-round display against Gisela Dulko and Wozniacki was pleased with her performance.
“I definitely felt like I was playing good tennis today,” she said. “I was playing aggressively, I was playing my game and I felt comfortable out there.
“I think I took the balls early, I made her run. I had a couple of good net approaches ... I just think in general I played a really good and solid match.”
Wozniacki will now play Dominika Cibulkova, the pint-sized Slovakian who beat her in Sydney last week. Cibulkova, the 29th seed, today edged out Alberta Brianti 6-1 4-6 6-2.
Also through is Belgian 11th seed Justine Henin, who disposed of Britain’s Elena Baltacha 6-1 6-3.
The seven-time major winner was pleased to be growing into the tournament after requiring three sets to beat Sania Mirza on Monday night.
“It was a different match today,” she said.
“I think on Monday it was pretty good in terms of it was a good fight and she put me under a lot of pressure. Today I was more in control during the whole match.
“But I’m glad I did it in an hour after a pretty long match on Monday.”
Henin has not appeared at a grand slam since injuring her elbow against countrywoman Kim Clijsters at Wimbledon last year and she admitted being first up on Rod Laver Arena on a cool morning was not ideal.
“It is the worst conditions actually, playing first match and the temperature,” she added.
“The weather doesn’t help, that’s for sure.
“But I have to deal with it and get ready, be focused on my game, even if it’s not easy.”
Henin is sure to be tested more in her next match as she comes up against Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open and 2009 French Open champion.
“Even if she has had a few troubles over the last year or two she remains a great player, and physically she has a lot of qualities: big forehand, great serve.
“So I know I’ll have to be at my best to win that one.”
Eighth seed Victoria Azarenka continues to make smooth progress, following up her victory over Kathrin Woerle with a 6-4 6-4 success against Andrea Hlavackova.