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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Venus steps up pace to reach last 16

Photo Titled Venus stretch
Venus Williams stretches for a shot from her Spanish opponent Carla Suarez Navarro.

As the opening week of the 2009 Championhips drew to a close, Venus Williams visibly upped the pace of her challenge for a sixth women's singles title here. Despite paying the penalty for taking her foot off the accelerator in the second set, the 29-year-old third seed motored past the tiny Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 6-0, 6-4 in one hour 21 minutes and had a cheery, positive wave for her Centre Court admirers afterwards.

When these two met on the only previous occasion, at the Australian Open six months ago, it was the 5ft 4in Suarez Navarro who inflicted a shock defeat on Williams in their second round match by proving the more durable in the rallies, especially when she was able to bring her potent single-handed backhand into play.

Today the roles were emphatically reversed, with Venus assuming the control her reputation at Wimbledon merits, especially in the 33-minute first set. And a strange set it was too, with the Spaniard's failure to win a game by no means a fair reflection of her share of play.

Williams was untouchable on serve, conceding just two points, while each of Suarez Navarro's service games was a long deuce affair, especially the opening game, which went on for five minutes. Clearly, Venus was tiring of all this when, at set point, she settled it with an ace.

The fact that Venus had her left knee heavily bandaged was matched in the injury precaution stakes by the 20-year-old Suarez Navarro, born in the Canary Islands but now living in Barcelona, whose right knee was similarly swathed.

It was the Venus the Bandaged Left Knee who was first to assert control in the second set as she had in the first. Venus opened with a service break (prolonged by the Spaniard once more to deuce) before moving briskly into a 2-0 lead with her second ace.

Perhaps the fact that she had won eight straight games persuaded Venus that the match was as good as over, but errors and a little carelessness crept into her play and Suarez Navarro was not slow to spot the opportunity.

To a huge cheer, she finally held serve with her first, and only, ace and the subsequent cheers were almost matched by gasps as she then broke the Williams serve, courtesy of three errors from Venus. At the conclusion of a bright spell that saw her capture four games out of five, Suarez Navarro led 4-3 and the prospect of a third set loomed.

At this point Venus remembered who she was and where she was. Despite a double fault, she held serve and then capitalised on three woeful Spanish errors as Suarez Navarro faltered at a crucial stage. Required simply to serve out for the match, Venus delivered another double fault, her third, but was ushered home by another flurry of Spanish errors in response to heavy Williams hitting.

Centre Court - Ladies' Singles - 3rd Round
Venus Williams USA (3)Winner66
Carla Suarez Navarro ESP 04

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