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Posted: Thursday May 28, 2009 8:39AM; Updated: Thursday May 28, 2009 7:19PM

Venus survives second-round scare

Story Highlights

Venus Williams saved a match point before beating Lucie Safarova

Williams won 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-5 and advanced to the third round

Jankovic, Wozniak breezed into third with straight-sets victories

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Venus Williams ran down a three-set victory to advance to the third round at the French.
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PARIS (AP) -- One point from an early exit at the French Open, one point from another disappointing Grand Slam defeat, Venus Williams avoided focusing on any such negativity.

"I wasn't thinking," she said of that crucial moment. "Not at all."

The third-seeded Williams smacked a backhand to erase that match point Thursday, then completed a comeback against 46th-ranked Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic by taking the last three games of a 6-7 (5), 6-2, 7-5 victory in the second round at Roland Garros.

"Nothing but guts. Courage. Venus was suffering with a little knee pain in her left knee," said Richard Williams, her father and coach. "Venus today just wouldn't give up. She kept coming and coming."

Both of his daughters moved into the third round Thursday, although Serena had a much easier time than Venus, routing 133rd-ranked Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain 6-2, 6-0.

The clay of Roland Garros slows the sisters' powerful serves and groundstrokes, and Venus Williams lost in the French Open's third round in three of the past four years. Her last major tournament was even less successful: She was upset in the second round of the Australian Open in January.

Not that such setbacks stay with the older sister for long.

"I just usually congratulate myself on doing something good and correct the bad and not dwell," said Venus Williams, a seven-time major champion. "Dwelling can kill you on the court."

Still, she did admit stewing a bit overnight. Her match against Safarova was suspended because of darkness after she lost the first set tiebreaker on Wednesday.

"I was very angry," Williams said. "I really wanted that tiebreaker. She just came up with shot after shot, you know -- on the line, deep, hard."

Safarova, a one-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, managed to do more of the same in Thursday's final set.

"It's a great effort to play with Venus like this," Safarova said.

She might have less strength, less variety to her game and less experience, but she was able to hang in there, even finishing with a 29-19 edge in groundstroke winners.

"She was playing well," Williams said, "but I felt like I deserved it."

A light rain was falling, and the crowd at Court Suzanne Lenglen was sparse and mostly silent for stretches. Until, that is, at 3-all in the third set, when Safarova double-faulted to hand Williams a break point.

As the second serve missed the mark, one person's applause and yell of "Come on, Venus, baby! That's right!" pierced the air. It was Richard Williams' companion; instead of sitting in the players' guest box, they chose front-row spots along a sideline, near where Safarova happened to be serving in that game.

Spectators responded by booing and whistling. And when Williams sailed a forehand long to waste that break point, the no-longer-non-partisan fans roared their approval. They did the same after each of the next two points -- Safarova ended a 17-stroke rally with a forehand winner, then Williams missed a backhand.

With Williams trailing 5-4 and serving at 30-all, she dumped a backhand into the net to give Safarova her match point. But Williams hit a 104 mph serve that drew a short return, and she delivered a winning backhand. Two points later, it was 5-all.

"The match," Safarova said, "was turning."

Williams broke to 6-5 with a backhand return winner, then ended things by closing with a 114 mph service winner.

"I have a lot to work with, with my serve and return and lots of good things," Williams said. "It gives me a chance to be confident."

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
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