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Williams stays alive with gritty win; Mauresmo cruises

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams knew it had been
quite some time since her last victory over a Top 10 player. When
told it had been two years, the American star shook her head and
laughed in disbelief.

"Has it been that long? That's a terrible stat," Williams said
Friday after beating fifth-seeded Nadia Petrova 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 in
the third round of the Australian Open.

It was Williams' first win over a Top 10 player since she won
the 2005 event for her seventh and final major singles title,
beating Amelie Mauresmo in the quarterfinals, fending off match
points against Maria Sharapova in the semis and overcoming Lindsay
Davenport in the final.

Williams will face No. 11 Jelena Jankovic -- a 6-3, 6-4 winner
over Victoria Azarenka -- on Sunday.

Defending champion Amelie Mauresmo beat the Czech Republic's Eva
Birnerova 6-3, 6-1. The second-seeded Mauresmo will play another
Czech, Lucie Safarova, in the fourth round. Safarova advanced when
Anastasiya Yakimova retired with a back injury after losing the
first set 6-3.

No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova also advanced, beating fellow Russian
Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 6-4, while No. 7 Elena Dementieva topped Maria Elena Camerin of
Italy. Also advancing were No. 10 Nicole Vaidisova and No. 16
Shahar Peer.

Limited to four tournaments last year because of a chronic knee
injury, Williams dropped out of the top 100 for the first time
since 1997 before climbing back to 95th in the year-end rankings.

She made 18 unforced errors, many just missing the lines, and
dropped serve twice in the first set.

"I felt like I was doing everything right in the first set, and
she just killed me," Williams said. "I was trying to figure out
what to do."

She did, dictating early in the second and having breakpoint at
3-0, before Petrova rallied to win the next four games and then had
a chance to serve for the match in the 10th.

Petrova got tight and Williams kept going for her shots, and it
worked.
"I've always gone for my shots in any type of pressure
situation, and I am going to keep it up," Williams said. "It
doesn't matter -- I think the more pressure I get, the tougher I
get."

Williams cut down her mistakes, almost immediately, and started
nailing the ground strokes that until then had been just missing.

"I was down 3-5 and on the verge of being out of the
tournament, and I obviously didn't want that to happen," she said.
"It was time to either move or lose, and I definitely didn't want
to lose."

Williams broke to tie it at 5-5 and then held serve.

Petrova admonished herself while eating an energy bar during the
changeover. That didn't help, and Williams, with the capacity crowd
of 15,000 increasingly behind her, won the second set when Petrova
double-faulted.

Williams broke Petrova again twice in the third and ended it in
2 hours, 5 minutes when Petrova netted a service return.

"She came up with some unbelievable returns," said Petrova,
who is 1-6 against Williams. "She just went for the balls and she
produced an unbelievable backhand winner up the line from far
behind the court. That's what gave her confidence for the third
set."

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.