American Venus Williams during her match against Belgium's Elise Mertens on day one of the 2017 Wimbledon championships, London on July 3, 2017. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo
Tenth-seeded and five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams dropped the opening set on Wednesday but rallied to move into the third round at the All England Club in London.
The 37-year-old American survived a determined effort from China's Wang Qiang in the second round to pull out a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory, powering her way through the final set.
Williams finished with more than twice as many winners as her opponent, 43 to 20. She also beat the 55th-ranked Wang at the French Open in May.
The two played for the second straight Grand Slam as Williams was victorious in a close two-setter in the first round at the French Open.
"Paris was straight sets (and) a completely different surface," Williams said after the match. "I think she just toward the end of the first set started landing a lot of shots. I didn't do a ton wrong. She just had an opportunity to be more aggressive. I had to at that point focus on the next two sets. She played a great match. She didn't let go. When I had opportunities to break, she would play breakpoints, serve well.
"So I have to give her a lot of credit for pushing the match to the limit. I was happy in the third to have a couple breaks to have some room to close it out, so I think that helped. A lot of credit to her, and I hope of course it helps me in the Championships."
Williams, who owns seven Grand Slam titles, is playing in her first tournament since she was involved in a fatal car crash in Florida on June 9.
After her first-round win on Monday, Williams broke down in tears at her post-match press conference when questioned about the accident that led to the death of a 78-year-old male passenger in the other vehicle two weeks later. Williams was not injured in the Florida crash, but Palm Beach Gardens police found her at fault. The family of Jerome Barson has opened a wrongful death lawsuit against Williams.
Williams, making her 20th appearance at Wimbledon, won the grass-court event in 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008.
American Madison Brengle also advanced with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 upset victory over No. 11 seed Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion. Kvitova was playing in just her third tournament in her comeback after being viciously attacked by a knife-wielding man on Dec. 20 during a robbery attempt in her Czech Republic home.
Kvitova came to the All England Club as one of favorites to take the title again after her inspiring win at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham two weeks ago.
Brengle, ranked No. 95 in the world, has proven to be tough opposition for Kvitova, winning two of their three previous meetings heading into Wednesday's clash.
Brengle kicked off 2017 with a surprise win over former world No. 1 Serena Williams at the ASB Classic in Auckland. The 27-year-old Brengle of Dover, Del., lost in the first round at Wimbledon in each of her two previous appearances.
Up next for Brengle is Greece's Maria Sakkari, who rallied from a set and 1-4 down to defeat Kristyna Pliskova 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-4.
In other second-round matches, No. 2 seed Simona Halep of Romania survived a test from Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil, winning 7-5, 6-3. No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine advanced with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Francesca Schiavone of Italy.
Sixth-seeded Johanna Konta of Britain won an epic battle at Wimbledon as she beat Croatia's Donna Vekic 7-6 (4), 4-6, 10-8 on Centre Court.
The three-hour-plus second-round encounter was a rematch of last month's Aegon Open final, which Vekic won in three sets.
"It's a nice feeling not to have to keep going out there," said Konta, who is in the third round for the first time in six Wimbledon appearances. "We were out there a long time, and both of us battled incredibly hard."
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus is back in the third round as the two-time Wimbledon semifinalist ousted 15th-seeded Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and 38 minutes.
The 27-year-old Azarenka, a former No. 1 but unseeded at Wimbledon, produced the best performance to date of her comeback from maternity leave.
"I think I played really clean from the baseline today," Azarenka said afterwards. "I could have played a little better on the return, but she also served really well. But overall, I felt like I played really good on the important moments, which gave me opportunities to win comfortably today."
Azarenka, back in the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time since the Australian Open last year, will next face local favorite Heather Watson, who swept No. 18 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-0, 6-4.
Eighth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia bounced back from a marathon opener with a straight sets victory over American Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-4 in 76 minutes to move into the third round.
Cibulkova has now reached the third round or better in seven of her 10 career appearances at Wimbledon.
"Today was really, really good match from both sides," Cibulkova said. "I would say she was playing really well. She was going for her shots and playing really fast. The serve was really hard to return. I had to find my rhythm, and, you know, I never played her before. I was prepared a little bit, but it's always different when you stand against opponent for the first time."
Caroline Garcia, the 21st seed from France, beat Ana Bogdan of Romania 6-4, 6-3 and No. 27 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia held off Romania's Irina Begu 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-3.