Venus Williams overcomes injury to win

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Venus Williams was in the middle of a first-set tiebreaker at the Australian Open on Wednesday when her mother yelled some encouragement from the bleachers at Rod Laver Arena.

Oracene Price's urges to "fight" were clearly intended for her daughter, but they appeared to immediately fall on deaf ears, and with good reason. On the last point of the tiebreaker she eventually lost, Williams hurt herself on a twisting backhand volley.

Writhing in pain and clutching near her stomach as she walked back to her courtside chair, Williams took a medical timeout as a WTA trainer was called. A few minutes later, she returned with her upper right thigh taped and a whole new attitude.

She later said she injured her "psoas" muscle, which flexes the hip and spinal column.

"It was really tough, but I'm a long way from home and it's such a long way I didn't want to go back yet," Williams said after surviving a 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-4 second-round win over her Czech opponent, Sandra Zahlavova.

"You've got to be able to play under all kinds of circumstances -- good, bad, strange, weird, all of the above. I had to just calm myself down. In the middle of a match like that, you can get a little hysterical."

Her fighting spirit -- and the strapping and perhaps a painkiller -- helped continue a streak in which Williams has completed all 257 singles matches she has started at Grand Slams.

Never has she retired with an injury.

Still, she needed some help at the end, asking courtside staff -- first chair umpire Alison Lang of Britain, then a ballboy -- to help carry off her equipment bag and rackets. Williams was well enough to carry off her glitzy handbag, which went with her outfit -- a revealing peek-a-boo lattice-style top with a multicolored satin short skirt she later referred to as her "Alice in Wonderland" outfit.

The fashion stakes weren't quite at the same level elsewhere at Melbourne Park on Wednesday, but the tennis was just as good -- Caroline Wozniacki advanced with an emphatic 6-1, 6-0 win over American Vania King.The 20-year-old Danish player was never troubled in the 58-minute match, breaking 88th-ranked King's serve to finish it off and reach the third round for a 13th consecutive Grand Slam tournament. She has yet to win a major but has held the No. 1 ranking since October and can retain it by reaching the semifinals here.

To get to the semis, she might have to beat seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin, who continued her comeback from injury with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Elena Baltacha of Britain on center court.

The pair could meet in the quarterfinals. Henin will have to get through a tough match against two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova just to get past the third round. The 23rd-seeded Kuznetsova beat Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus 6-1, 6-4.

"I have a lot of good memories, almost all good memories, from Melbourne," said Henin, the 2004 Australian champion and runner-up here in 2006 and last year, when she was returning from a career break from the tour.

Her comeback was stalled after Wimbledon -- she couldn't play because of an elbow injury -- and she is making another return of sorts at Melbourne Park.

"I've been fighting hard the last few months, and it's great to be back in Australia," Henin said.

The 2008 champion, Maria Sharapova, also advanced.

Three women could finish the tournament at No. 1. Kim Clijsters and Vera Zvonareva are the others, and they opened with straight-sets first-round wins Tuesday.

In other action, No. 8 Victoria Azarenka, the 2010 quarterfinalist who has lost to Serena Williams the past three years here, beat Andrea Hlavackova 6-4, 6-4. Serena Williams is injured and not defending her title in Australia. No. 29 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia held off Italy's Alberta Brianti 6-1, 4-6, 6-2. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic beat Australian wild card Jelena Dokic 7-6 (3), 6-1, and No. 9 Li Na defeated Evgeniya Rodina of Russia 6-3, 6-2.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.