Venus Williams came from behind to reach the third round at Wimbledon

LONDON — Venus Williams came from behind to reach the third round at Wimbledon here Wednesday in a grueling three-hour battle with 40-year-old Japanese opponent Kimiko Date-Krumm.

Williams, 31, was forced to dig deep as Date-Krumm proved to be an unexpectedly awkward opponent for the five-time Wimbledon champion, who finally prevailed 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 8-6 before a rapt Centre Court. The win put Williams into a third-round tie against Spain’s Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez on Friday, who defeated Monica Niculescu 6-3, 6-0 earlier.

Williams, seeded 23, is feeling her way back into tennis after a five-month lay-off following an injury sustained at the Australian Open in January. The former world number one said her enforced absence from the game had rekindled her competitive fires.

“I think more than anything I’ve learned I’m very competitive. I’ve been extremely positive regardless of how my opponent’s playing. Just no matter what the score, very positive. Just keeping fighting,” Williams said.

“I think that’s going to be crucial, not only for me but for anyone in this championship to stay positive and keep fighting,” she added.

Date-Krumm, who reached the semi-finals here in 1996 before later taking a 12-year sabbatical from the sport, expressed satisfaction that she had pushed her more illustrious opponent so close.

“Today was a good fight for me,” Date said.

“Of course I’m very, very disappointed. But most importantly, I played my tennis and showed I can fight with Venus. She’s a five-time champion here. So it was a very, very good match for me.” Williams, in turn, was left marveling at the performance of her evergreen opponent.

“I played a very tough opponent today. She doesn’t play anywhere near her age,” she said. “Obviously she’s a huge role model. She hits hard and she runs fast and she’s extremely competitive, as you saw today.”

There was a happier outcome for another Japanese woman however, with qualifier Misaki Doi, the world number 133, stunning 30th seed Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 5-7, and 7-5 in the first round.

Elsewhere however the form book held sway as five more seeded players advanced safely to the second round. Polish 13th seed Agnieszka Radwanska didn’t drop a game in her match against Olga Govortsova, winning 6-0, 3-0 before the Belarussian retired hurt.

Italy’s Flavia Pennetta, seeded 21, downed Irina Begu of Romania 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-2 while Australia’s Jarmila Gajdosova beat Ukraine’s Alona Bondarenko 7-5, 6-3.

Slovakian 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova came from a set down to edge out Mirjana Lucic 3-6, 6-3, 8-6 but there was no such difficulty for Germany’s Julia Georges, seeded 16, who breezed past Spain’s Annabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-0.

Updated: March 29, 2020 — 1:34 pm

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