KEY BISCAYNE (AP) — Venus Williams’ career comeback now includes a come-from-behind win.
Williams erased a match point and rallied Sunday to outlast Aleksandra Wozniak 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open.
Williams is playing in her first tournament since withdrawing from the U.S. Open last August after being diagnosed with a fatigue-causing autoimmune disease. The three-set victory was her second in less than 48 hours, and took nearly three hours.
Wozniak served for the match at 5-4 in the final set, but dumped a forehand in the net when she had a match point. The tiebreaker swung Williams’ way when she smacked an overhead that clipped the net cord before landing softly for a winner and a 4-2 lead.
Her final shot was a 119-mph service winner.
No. 4-seeded Andy Murray, the 2009 champion, advanced in a walkover when Milos Raonic withdrew because of a sprained right ankle. Raonic said he doesn’t believe the injury is serious.
Grigor Dimitrov advanced by upsetting No. 7 Tomas Berdych 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. The 20-year-old Dimitrov improved to 1-9 against top 10 players.
No. 9 Janko Tipsarevic beat No. 18 Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.
In other women’s third-round play, No. 7 Marion Bartoli eliminated Simona Halep 6-4, 7-6, (6). No. 16 Dominika Cibulkova beat Zheng Jie 6-2, 6-0.
On a sweltering spring afternoon, Williams looked lethargic at the outset, struggled with an erratic forehand and kept falling behind.
“Wake up, Venus!” a fan shouted in the second set. Younger sister Serena, who plays her fourth-round match Monday, watched solemnly from the club section of the stadium.
Venus managed to pull even after two sets, then fell behind 4-2 in the third set and looked increasingly weary. During one changeover she hung her head for 15 seconds before slowly lifting it to take sips from two drink bottles.
Wozniak looked fresher but couldn’t serve out the match. Instead, she hit consecutive nervous double-faults and committed unforced errors on the game’s final three points, which made it 5-all.
When Williams’ biggest serve of the match clinched the victory, she managed to raise both fists and muster a smile.
A former No. 1 and seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, Williams is ranked No. 134 and needed a wild card to enter the tournament. She’s trying to improve her ranking enough in the coming weeks to qualify for the London Olympics.
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