Venus Williams Limps to 3-Set Australian Open Win

Kim Clijsters of Belgium
Kim Clijsters of Belgium plays a forehand in her first round match against Dinara Safina of Russia during day two of the 2011 Australian Open. Photographer: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Venus Williams limped to a three-set comeback victory, overcoming a groin injury to defeat Sandra Zahlavova in the second round of the Australian Open.

The fourth-seeded Williams, the last American woman remaining in the tournament, won 6-7 (6-8), 6-0, 6-4 today at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.

Williams, 30, screamed in pain as she reached high to hit a backhand shot on the last point of the first set. She then took a nine-minute injury break before limping slowly back onto the court for the second set.

“I just had a groin problem and I pulled it severely and it hurt a lot,” Williams said in a televised interview as she came off the court following the win. “It was just really shocking and acute.”

Zahlavova, a 25-year-old from the Czech Republic, is ranked 97th in the world. She has never advanced beyond the second round of a Grand Slam tournament.

Williams has never quit in the middle of a Grand Slam match. She moved gingerly at the start of the second set before gradually working her way back into the match.

“I just got off the court, got some treatment and calmed down,” Williams said. “Clearly, I wasn’t moving as well, but when I got my racket on the ball I hit some winners.”

Andy Roddick had 17 aces as he advanced to the third round with a straight-set victory. Roddick, at No. 8 the highest-seeded American man in the tournament, won 7-6 (9-7), 6-2, 6-3 against Igor Kunitsyn of Russia on the third day of the tennis tournament.

Berdych, Verdasco Advance

Joining Roddick in the third round were No. 6 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and No. 9 Fernando Verdasco of Spain. Verdasco overcame a two-set deficit and fought off three match points to defeat Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic.

Roddick’s countryman, No. 16 Mardy Fish, lost 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in the second round to Spain’s Tommy Robredo.

“When you’re confident, the court just makes sense, decisions come easier to you,” Roddick said in a news conference. “A lot of it comes naturally. There’s not a whole lot of thought process. You’re not forcing a lot. The ball kind of, I guess, reacts the way you want it to.”

Women’s top seed Caroline Wozniacki, seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin and former champion Maria Sharapova advanced to the third round with straight-set victories.

Denmark’s Wozniacki needed 58 minutes to win 6-1, 6-0 against American Vania King, while No. 11 Henin of Belgium was a 6-1, 6-3 winner in 61 minutes against Briton Elena Baltacha. Henin had 22 winners to Baltacha’s six.

Russia’s Sharapova, the 2008 Australian Open champion and the No. 14 seed this year, won 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 against Virginie Razzano of France.

Defending champion Roger Federer of Switzerland, who claimed a men’s record-extending 16th major title in Melbourne last year, meets France’s Gilles Simon tonight.

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