Venus survives scare; Sharapova strolls to win

Updated: June 29, 2006, 9:13 PM ET
Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England -- Venus Williams waited until the last minute to get going.

Down a set and 5-2, the defending champion won 11 of the next 13 games to stave off a huge upset and beat Lisa Raymond 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-2 on Thursday in the second round at Wimbledon.

The three-time champion was two points from defeat, when Raymond served for the match leading 5-3 in the second set, before she roared back to overcome the 84th-ranked American.

Maria Sharapova
AP Photo/Kirsty WigglesworthMaria Sharapova has lost only six games in the first two rounds.

At one stretch, Williams won 34 of 39 points, including 18 in a row. She won six of her last seven service games at love, and closed out the match with her 11th ace.

"It's all about surviving to another day," Williams said. "I felt it would be such a shame to go out in the second round. I almost met my match today."

"The tennis gods caught up with me a bit today," Raymond said. "I got a bit lucky in my first round and then I put myself in a perfect position to win that match and just didn't get it done."

Raymond, playing strong serve-and-volley tennis, was on the verge of upsetting Williams but couldn't close it out. Serving for the match, she had 30-15 and 30-30, but Williams responded with winners, broke serve and never looked back.

Raymond said she rushed her serve in that game and let things slip away.

"She got a glimpse of me getting tight and getting upset with myself and realizing, `Hey, I'm back in this match,"' she said. "I just let it affect me for a couple of games. You can't give Venus Williams any sort of a head start and I did that in the third. She took it and ran with it."

In other women's play, top-seeded Amelie Mauresmo beat Samatha Stosur, 6-4, 6-2, her fourth straight win over the 50th-ranked Australian. The Frenchwoman has reached the Wimbledon semifinals three times.

Maria Sharapova, the 2004 women's champion, overpowered Ashley Harkleroad 6-2, 6-2 in 67 minutes. The match was slightly tougher than her 51-minute 6-2, 6-0 win the previous day over Anna Smashnova.

"I didn't think I had enough of a challenge to see where my game was at in the first round," the third-seeded Russian said. "The points were very quick. But today I played a few rallies and I definitely did a lot of good things."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press