MELBOURNE, Australia -- Venus Williams did not want to risk
going three sets in the second round of the Australian Open.
Down a break of serve in the second set to Camille Pin, the
eighth-ranked Williams rallied to get back to 4-4 and won the last
two games, ending a 7-5, 6-4 victory Thursday on her second match
point at Melbourne Park.
Pin has never been beyond the second round in 19 majors but
Williams would have been aware of the 26-year-old Frenchwoman's
never-say-die approach if she tracked Maria Sharapova's path to the
final last year.
Pin rallied from 5-0 down in the third set and had a chance to
serve for the match at 7-6 before eventually losing 9-7 in the
first round last year against the then top-seeded Sharapova.
Sharapova progressed to the final before losing to Venus' sister,
Venus Williams didn't help herself with six double faults and 44
unforced errors as she tried to push Pin around the court.
Williams looked stiff, sluggish and out of sorts, trudging back
to the baseline in growing bewilderment as she sprayed balls all
over the court. She was clearly trying to win points as quickly as
possible, venturing to the net 39 times and often going for
high-risk winners. At times, she rubbed the left side of her
abdomen, but later said she felt fine.
Pin was doing little more than keeping the ball in play. But she
kept Williams from getting into a rhythm by mixing up her spins and
drawing Williams in with drop shots, then sending her scampering
back to the baseline with well-placed lobs.
Pin pulled ahead 5-4 in the first set after breaking Williams at
love -- thanks to three double-faults -- only to see the American
pull herself together long enough to take the last three games.
Muttering to herself, Williams found herself fighting from
behind again at 2-4. Finally picking up her level of play, Williams
had her best stretch, grunting as she ripped stinging winners to
take the last four games.
Her first smile came as she acknowledged the crowd's cheers.
"She was a real fighter," said Venus Williams,
who will face No. 31 Sania Mirza of India, a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 winner
over Timea Bacsinszky. "She made me hit a lot of
Second-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova was desperate to win the first
set for her own reasons against Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova. The
former U.S. Open champion has never won a match at the Australian
Open after conceding the first set.
And she had her difficulties in a 7-6 (0), 6-2 win.
"It was really hard. She played really well. I didn't do my job
well in the first set," Kuznetsova said. "A Grand Slam is seven
different matches, some days you don't feel good."
"I was trying to stay in the game, was 100 percent focused on
that but sometimes it just wasn't going my way. I'm sure I'll play
better next time."
Kuznetsova was down 3-0 and then 5-2 before breaking Pironkova's
serve to start a four-game winning stretch that ended when she
wasted her chance to serve for the first set at 6-5.
But Kuznetsova, the losing finalist at the last U.S. Open,
handled the pressure better and ran off seven straight points,
getting a 4-0 buffer when Pironkova double-faulted for only the
second time in the match.
Kuznetsova dominated the second set, getting the decisive break
in the sixth game.
Mirza, Venus Williams' next opponent, showed she is putting the controversy that haunted her Australian Open
preparations well behind her as she battled to the
"I am very pleased by winning a match like this today because a lot has been happening in the last couple of weeks
off the court," Mirza said.
"I was down 3-1, 30-30 [in the third set] and I could have
said I was just mentally not there -- it would have been a good
excuse -- but I proved I am strong and hopefully I can continue
to do that"
Mirza is the subject of a court summons in Bhopal after a
private citizen made a complaint under the country's Prevention
of Insult to the National Honour Act.
The controversy surrounds a photograph taken at the Hopman
Cup mixed team event in Perth, played at the beginning of the
year, that appeared to show Mirza's bare feet resting near the national flag.
Mirza said she was looking forward to a meeting with Venus Williams, having played her sister, Serena, at the same stage
in Melbourne three years ago, when she became the first Indian woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam event.
"I am very excited to play Venus," she said.
"I have nothing to lose and feel like I am playing well. I
want to try to get a good start."
Other women's seeded players advancing were No. 4 Ana Ivanovic, No. 6 Anna
Chakvetadze, No. 9 Daniela Hantuchova, No. 14 Nadia Petrova and No.
27 Maria Kirilenko, who beat Akiko Morigami of Japan 6-1, 6-1.
Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.