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Venus Williams Saves Three Match Points • Prevails In Miami Tennis Thriller

Venus Williams of the US in action against Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands during a third round match at the Miami Open tennis tournament on Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA, 25 March 2018. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER

 

 

The court clock crept past two hours, 50 minutes.

 

But 37-year-old Venus Williams was too busy turning back time to take much notice.

 

In a sweaty, topsy-turvy thriller, Williams roared back from a 1-4 third-set deficit and fought off three match points battling by a cramping Kiki Bertens, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, into the Miami Open round of 16.

 

Nine days after Daria Kasatkina edged Williams, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, to advance to the Indian Wells final, the eighth-seeded American showed grit and grace in a determined comeback.

 

Exhorted on by the crowd, Williams denied two match points when Bertens served for the match at 5-4 then saved a third match point when Bertens netted a backhand return in holding for 5-all.

 

Williams smacked a forehand winner on her first match point ending a fierce, two hour, 56-minute struggle that left Bertens suffering from apparent forearm cramps in her racquet hand.

 

“I felt everybody behind me,” Williams told Andrew Krasny afterward. “I got to play in front of a packed house on a hot day. My opponent played well. I had a lot of chances. She had a lot of chances, I hope it was entertaining for you all.

 

“It didn’t look good sometimes. That’s why you keep playing till the last point and that’s why I love this game.”

 

This defiant stand came 17 years after a stubborn Williams denied eight championship points subduing Jennifer Capriati, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) in the 2001 Miami final.

 

A couple of weeks after bowing to Serena Williams in Indian Wells, Bertens saw big sister Venus steamroll through the first five games before the Dutchwoman answered with a seven-game surge of her own.

 

Playing with more height and spin on her drives at the outset, Williams drew a couple of netted errors breaking for 2-0. A relaxed Williams rolled through eight of 10 points extending her lead through the first three games.

 

Swarming the net, Williams lunged for a full-stretch forehand volley scoring her second straight break for 4-0 after only 15 minutes. Williams won 19 of the first 25 points and appeared in complete command up 5-0.

 

Taking a coaching time-out, Bertens returned to the court putting a bit more spin on her groundstrokes and using more variety in exchanges.

 

Bertens began landing her first serve, including banging an ace down the middle, as she stopped her slide and finally held for 1-5.

 

That hold spiked a run of seven straight games for the world No. 29, who flicked an internal switch to transform from scatter-shot to precision tennis.

 

Williams squandered three set points in the ninth game, including botching a short backhand sitter wide. Peering out at the court beneath her yellow visor, Bertens was low to the ground when she cranked a forehand winner down the line scoring her second straight break for 4-5.

 

Striking her forehand with more vigor and control, Bertens continued to attack Williams’ increasingly erratic forehand wing. Drawing a floating forehand error, Bertens broke again—her sixth straight game—for 6-5.

 

In an astounding turnaround, the 26-year-old Dutchwoman’s seven-game charge put her in firm control against a flagging 37-year-old opponent. Bertens hit 10 more winners—14 to 4—in the 51-minute opening-set in which both women took turns dominating.

 

Hitting with a bit more control, Williams converted her fifth breakpoint for a 2-0 second-set lead.

 

Perhaps feeling fatigue from a draining game, the three-time champion double faulted to give back the break. Two games later, Williams whipped a 116 mph serve to save a break point then staved off four more break points. Ripping a forehand return for a sixth break point, Bertens broke for 3-2 when a weary Williams overhit a forehand ending an 11-minute struggle.

 

The seven-time Grand Slam champion broke back to level after 96 minutes then grinded through a tough hold for 4-3.

 

Williams, who looked depleted just 15 minutes earlier, showed fresher legs scraping out a fine backhand volley then poking a full-stretch forehand half volley for break point. Attacking, Williams was at full stretch blocking a backhand volley winner to break for 5-3.

 

Serving for the set, Williams saved a break point that slid a second-serve ace out wide for set point. When Bertens whacked a wide forehand, Williams forced a final set.

 

Bertens burst out of the blocks quickly in the decider, smacking aces to end a pair of holds in building a 4-1 lead.

 

The 2016 Roland Garros semifinalist won a wild rapid-fire net exchange with a reflex backhand volley then slammed a forehand crosscourt breaking for the sixth time and a 5-3 lead.

 

Serving for the match, Bertens was one point from victory. Williams whipped a backhand winner down the line on the first match point and saved the second when Bertens tightened sending a flat forehand into net. A high backhand volley helped Williams break back in the ninth game.

 

Clanking her third double fault, Williams faced a third match point but saved it when Bertens netted a backhand return. Williams worked through a tricky hold to level at 5-all.

 

Bertens, who stood through the changeover, was clearly hampered by cramps and sometimes held her racquet in her left hand before the ball was in play to lighten the stress on her right hand. Williams blasted a pair of backhand winners breaking for 6-5.

 

Twenty years after a teenage Venus defeated Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova in succession to claim her first Miami Open title, she buzzed through the final six points crunching a forehand winner to close a gripping victory in two hours, 56 minutes.

 

Next up for the eighth-seeded Williams is defending champion Johanna Konta.

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