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Venus Williams reaches 3rd round

WIMBLEDON, England -- Five-time champion Venus Williams needed three sets and nearly three hours to overcome the oldest player in the field Wednesday and reach the third round at Wimbledon.

With rain delaying play on the other courts at the All England Club, Williams outlasted Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-7 (6), 6-3, 8-6 in a compelling battle under the sliding roof of Centre Court that featured great shot-making from both players.

Williams relied on her big serve at key moments to overcome a gritty challenge from the 40-year-old Japanese player, who was the second-oldest woman to reach the second round here in the Open era after Martina Navratilova.

"She doesn't play anywhere near her age," Williams said.

Date-Krumm hit a backhand passing shot just wide to lose serve on match point after 2 hours, 56 minutes of play. Among those giving the players a standing ovation were the guests in the Royal Box, including Prince Charles' wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

Williams, who fell behind 5-1 in the first set before climbing back into the match, finished with 12 aces and 45 winners, one fewer than Date-Krumm. Williams had 24 unforced errors; Date-Krumm had 31. It was the first time the two players have met in their long careers.

"It was tough. She came out and I just couldn't seem to get a game," Williams said. "She played so well and before I knew it the ball was past me every time in the first set."

Williams, who turned 31 last week and is playing in her 15th straight Wimbledon, was pushed to the limit. Date-Krumm kept her off-balance by ripping back her serves, hitting flat groundstrokes from corner to corner and sneaking to the net for drop volleys.

"She runs down every ball," Williams said. "She hits every
ball basically on the baseline, hard and flat. If you get it
anywhere near the midcourt, she hits for the corners and comes to
the net.

"I thought she played unbelievable today. I thought she had
some luck on her side, too, with net cords, balls hitting lines. I
just thought today was a perfect storm for her to try to get a win.
Thankfully I had some answers," she said.

The 57th-ranked Date-Krumm made her Wimbledon debut in 1989, reached the semifinals in 1996 and retired later that year until her return in 2008.

With rain pounding on the translucent roof, Williams and Date-Krumm put on a fighting display of competitive tennis. The first set lasted 65 minutes, the third went 69 minutes. By comparison, Venus won her first match against Akgul Amanmuradova on Monday in 59 minutes.

"Obviously I'd prefer to win in straight sets with no breaks but against a player like her today, right until the end she was attacking," Williams said. "Even that last shot I thought I hit a great approach and she almost hit a passing shot, so that was the story of the match. But I'm really glad I was able to serve well, I think that really got me through."

It was the third match played under the roof this week, with the tournament schedule already disrupted by rain. The roof was installed before the 2009 tournament and had been rarely used until this week. Matches eventually began after 3 p.m. local time on the outside courts Wednesday after the showers let up.

Williams, who returned to tournament play last week at
Eastbourne after a layoff of nearly five months with a hip injury,
looked flat in the early going and fell behind 3-0 and 5-1 as
Date-Krumm controlled the points.

"I played my tennis and (showed) I can fight with Venus also,"
Date-Krumm said. "She's a five-time champion here. She's a great
player. So I can fight with her. It was a very, very good match for
me."

But Williams settled into her game and ran off five straight
games to go up 6-5, saving two set points at 5-3 and another at
5-4. Williams squandered a set point of her own at 6-5 and then went
down 6-2 in the tiebreak but saved four more set points. At
6-all, Date-Krumm floated a forehand that just caught the outside
of the line and finally converted on her eighth set point when
Williams missed a backhand passing shot.

Williams broke twice to take the second set and went up a break
at 2-0 in the third. But Date-Krumm wouldn't give in, breaking back
for 2-1 when Williams double-faulted and then saving six break
points in the fourth game.

"It's just important to play each point, and just to keep
competing, keep battling," Williams said. "I feel like I'm
playing better than Eastbourne. I feel like my movement is a lot
better. I'm not feeling any pain from my injury right now, so
that's more than I expected."

Second-seeded Vera Zvonareva also reached the third round by defeating Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-1, 7-6 (5).

The 2010 Wimbledon runner-up improved her record to 6-1 against Vesnina, with her only loss coming last year when she retired with an ankle injury.

Other winners included No. 4 Victoria Azarenka, No. 8 Petra Kvitova, No. 11 Andrea Petkovic, No. 13 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 16 Julia Goerges, No. 21 Flavia Pennetta, No. 24 Dominika Cibulkova, No. 25 Daniela Hantuchova, No. 27 Jarmila Gajdosova, No. 29 Roberta Vinci and No. 32 Tsvetana Pironkova.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.