Millennium Post

Serena rallies past Petrova to reach third round of Rome Open

American Serena Williams reached the third round of the Rome Open tennis after being pushed to dig deep to beat Russia's Nadia Petrova.

Ninth-seeded Williams lost her last two meetings with Petrova, as well as two of their three previous clay court meetings, and an upset loomed as the big-serving Russian won the first set 6-4 and held triple break point at 1-all in the second set.

However, Williams came back swinging, saving five break points in that game and never looked in danger again, eventually winning 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

'When I lost the first set, I just thought, 'Stay in there and just don't give up, you'll have a chance,' Williams was quoted as saying by Xinhua. 'I just didn't want to give up. I never do want to give up, nor have I ever wanted to give up.'

Williams is now 15-0 on clay this season, going 5-0 to win Charleston, 2-0 in Fed Cup play, 6-0 to win Madrid and 2-0 so far here. The last time anyone pulled off a perfect clay court season was Justine Henin's 24-0 run in 2005.

'I love Europe and to be able to play the whole season here is really cool,' Williams said. 'I've definitely developed a lot of confidence on clay. I like it a lot. Well, I've always liked it. It's just that I haven't won a lot of tournaments on it, but now I'm getting more wins and hope to change that going forward.'

The 13-time Grand Slam champion continued to describe her passion for the sport. "I am so inspired to be out there," she said. "The only incentive I have is that I love tennis and I love playing. There are a lot of times in life you don't get the chance to do what you do best, but this is definitely where I belong."

Next up for Williams is Anabel Medina Garrigues. Curiously, the two veterans - Williams 30, Medina Garrigues 29 - will be playing against each other for the first time.

Venus Williams also moved through to the third round, battling back from 3-5 down and needing six set points to close out the first set but then rolling past Ekaterina Makarova for a 7-6(7), 6-1 victory.

Next up for Williams is No.5 seed Samantha Stosur. Williams leads the overall head-to-head 4-1 but Stosur won their only 2012 meeting.

In the night match, No.1 seed Victoria Azarenka beat Shahar Peer 6-1, 6-2, never facing a break point and winning nearly twice as many points in the match (57 to 29).

Azarenka withdrew from the tournament afterwards with a shoulder injury.
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