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Williams Reaches Aussie Open Third Round Despite Injury

Venus Williams bravely battled through a painful injury to reach the Australian Open's third round as Spain's Fernando Verdasco survived a trademark five-set thriller.

Women's world number one Caroline Wozniacki finally hit form on Wednesday and American Andy

Roddick also remained on track as a rollercoaster day three played out in bright Melbourne sunshine.

Injury-hit Williams' first tournament since the U.S. Open looked to have ended in disaster as she screamed in pain and clutched herself when losing the first set's decisive point against Czech Sandra

Zahlavova.

The 30-year-old limped off for treatment and looked uncomfortable when she returned with her right thigh strapped. But the seven-time Grand Slam winner was quickly in the points and saw Zahlavova off 6-7 (6/8), 6-0, 6-4.

"I don't know what happened," Williams said of her amazing recovery. "I started going for my shots and she wasn't as composed as before -- you have to able to play under all circumstances."

French Open champion Francesca Schiavone needed a 16-game third set before seeing off Canada's Rebecca Marino 6-3, 5-7, 9-7, while Russian glamour girl Maria Sharapova beat France's Virginie Razzano 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.

Meanwhile Verdasco, on the losing end of the Australian Open's longest ever match two years ago, prevailed in five gripping sets against Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/0), 6-0.

The encounter clocked in at just under four hours, recalling his record 5hr 14min epic against Rafael Nadal in the 2009 semi-finals.

"I just keep fighting all the time, because I was really close to losing today," Verdasco said. "I think that just my mentality was the key, one of the biggest keys today to my comeback."

Elsewhere Roddick, 28, downed Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 7-6 (9/7), 6-2, 6-3 and Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych beat Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber in four.

"Well, I get to play again so that's all you want," said Roddick. "You know, it could have gotten uncomfortable today if that first set would have gotten away, but I feel like I'm hitting the ball fine."

Denmark's Wozniacki, 20, shook off a troubled start to the year with a 6-1, 6-0 demolition of America's Vania King, burying 23 winners to reach the third round and join a list of impressive women's winners.

Belgium's Justine Henin won 6-1, 6-3 against Briton Elena Baltacha and Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Arantxa Rus 6-1, 6-4. On Tuesday, favorite Kim Clijsters humiliated former finalist Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-0.

Wozniacki has been questioned over her durability as number one, after she reached the top ranking without winning a major and arrived in Melbourne on a two-match losing streak.

But Wozniacki said she was on the "right path" and drew on the examples of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, whose constant quest for perfection has seen them dominate men's tennis.

"I always believe you can always get better. Even Rafa (Nadal) and Roger, who are fantastic athletes, they even get better all the time," she said.

Japanese poster-boy Kei Nishikori enjoyed a four-set win over German Florian Mayer and Spain's Tommy Robredo outlasted Mardy Fish of the United States.

Defending champion Federer will be looking for his first ever win over France's Gilles Simon later as he targets a fifth Australian Open title -- which would also stop top-ranked Nadal sweeping all four Grand Slams.

The wary Swiss ordered his coaching staff to draw up a new plan to defeat Simon after the Frenchman won both their previous encounters in 2008.

Source: Agence France Presse


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