Venus rallies to down Coetzer in three sets
MELBOURNE (Reuters) -- Third-seed Venus Williams fought back from the brink of defeat to beat South African 10th seed Amanda Coetzer 2-6, 6-1, 8-6 Wednesday and to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open.
Venus will now play three-time winner and last year's runner-up Martina Hingis for a spot in the final.
Williams has stretched her recent grand slam record to 19 successive wins after capturing the Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles last year but almost donated her Australian Open semifinal berth to Coetzer.
"Today was not one of my better days," she said afterwards.
Coetzer even served for the match after breaking Williams for 5-3 in the third set, only for Williams to break her serve and then level matters.
But when Williams was serving for the match at 6-5, Coetzer broke back with the help of the American's sixth double fault.
Williams promptly returned the compliment to go up 7-6 and, towering nearly a foot (30 cm) over Coetzer, finally clinched the match with a smash after two loose shots from the South African dynamo.
"That third set was a killer," Williams said. "When I'm not having my best day Amanda is a tough player to play."
"When I'm on it doesn't matter who I'm playing... when I'm off it's tough to play someone like her."
For much of their one hour and 46 minutes on Melbourne Park's center court it looked like the normally powerful Williams did not know how to tame the small South African's looping shots, even though Williams had beaten her in straight sets in five previous hard court meetings.
"I don't think she did anything wrong, to be honest," said Williams.
"I think I was just able to capitalize on some of the short balls. I moved forward, and I think I hit a few winners."
Coetzer had raced through the first set in just 21 minutes, breaking a sluggish and error-prone Williams's serve twice and then serving out the set to love.
"Definitely in the first set I felt very flat. But I had to really pick myself up if I was planning on staying in the tournament," Williams said.
Williams did not win a point in the first two games and her major contribution to the first set was 19 unforced errors, which embarrassed her so much she could not even bare to look up at her mother and coach, Oracene, in the stands.
"I don't look up a lot, especially if I'm really doing bad, I feel a little bit bad because I know what she's told me to do and if I'm not doing it, then I feel a little ashamed," she said.
"Especially like in the first set and the second set, I was feeling a little bit nervous to look up there."
That trend was reversed as the second set progressed, with Coetzer becoming tentative, as if shocked to find herself on course for her first grand slam semifinal in four years.
Williams broke Coetzer twice in the second set and served it out to love with an ace as she brought her wayward groundstrokes back under control.
The world number three again wore her revealing two-piece outfit she unveiled last week, as well as a sun shade even though the roof over center court was shut to keep out the rain.
Coetzer was not hard on herself for failing to take her chances in the third set.
"I think I really probably had my opportunity at 5-3. I went for a couple of shots and missed them," the 29-year-old said.
"It's nice to know that I set myself up like that ... hopefully I can give myself some more opportunities like this," she said.
Williams, who said she had trouble moving her feet in the first set, had no complaints about her fitness after the match, with doubles still to come before her semifinal.
"You know, if I'm not in shape now, it's too late," she said.
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