Serena escapes upset thanks to Stosur’s Sydney slump

January 11th, 2009 - 3:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Serena WilliamsSydney, Jan 11 (DPA) Top seed Serena Williams flirted with disaster before finally emerging from a lengthy sulk to survive 6-3, 6-7(4-7), 7-5 against Australian Samantha Stosur in the opening round of the Medibank International Sunday.Stosur, ranked 51 and with the home crowd in her corner, had a horror day, sending over double-faults on two of her four match points while leading 5-4 in the final set.

With Williams — who had gone walkabout for a set or more over a net cord not called which eventually allowed Stosur to level at a set each — off her game, Stosur was unable to take full advantage.

The Australian who missed half of last season with illness, looked to be in command leading 4-2 in the third set.

But after her match point miscues allowed the American to pull to 5-all in her first match of the season, the the 24-year-old Australian began to pile on the unforced errors, unable to find a first serve.

Williams dodged a bullet in the 11th game of the last set, saving a pair of break points for 6-5 thanks to strong serving.

The world number two finally ended the frustrating marathon with a concluding break of a spent Stosur who saved one match point before firing an error to go down and out.

The win was the second for Williams after beating the Australian at the Beijing Olympics.

Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, last year’s losing finalist to Justine Henin, had to escape a slow start to overcome China’s Peng Shuai 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

The former US Open champion, now happily based back in Moscow, recovered after dropping the opening set thanks in part to 12 forehand errors.

But Peng was unable to maintain pace, with Kuznetsova grinding out the first-round victory on her third match point after double-faulting on her first two.

“It was very tough, I was little nervous and not playing so great,” the winner confessed. “I had so many chances in the match.

“But in the third set I stayed aggressive and that was the key.”

Men begin their ATP competition Monday, with the top four seeds led by Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic all receiving first-round byes.

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