Venus survives scare; Sharapova strolls to win
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.
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
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Dates: June 26-July 9
Defending champions: Venus Williams, Roger Federer
Time difference: Great Britain is 5 hours ahead of ET
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• Sheppard: Nadal No. 2, and closing, on grass
• Notebook: Gilbert deal to coach Murray not official ... yet
• Jensen: Federer learned from French Open
• Day 12: Mauresmo wins women's title
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• Men's final preview: Nadal won't be an easy out
• Day 10: Women's semis | Nadal reaches semifinals
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• Shriver: Two Grand Slam finals in one
• Navratilova loses final Wimbledon match
• Paul Goldstein blog
• Day 9: Men's quarterfinals
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• Garber: Navratilova wants one more title
• Sheppard: Bjorkman wins five-set marathon
• Notebook: Women's semifinal previews
• Nestor-Knowles win longest Grand Slam doubles match in history
• Day 8: Women's quarterfinals
• Garber: Belgians meet for third time in '06
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