Serena rallies past Petrova at Australian Open

Jan 19, 2007 - 5:03 AM MELBOURNE, Australia (Ticker) -- Serena Williams may not be in the best physical condition, but she certainly still has a champion's heart.

On the brink of a blowout loss, Williams rallied past No. 5 Nadia Petrova of Russia, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, on Friday to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open.

Williams is unseeded because her ranking slipped substantially in 2006, when she missed much of the year with a left knee injury. Still working herself back into playing shape, the seven-time Grand Slam champion beat No. 27 Mara Santangelo in the first round and Anne Kremer of Luxembourg in the second but appeared overmatched against Petrova in the early going.

After getting crushed in the first set, Williams won the first three games of the second set but promptly dropped five straight. The American held serve to end the streak before breaking Petrova to level the set, then won the next two games to level the match.

"I really had no other option than for my game to go up," Williams said. "I was down 3-5 and on the verge of being out of the tournament, and I obviously didn't want that to happen. ... I told myself just to stay in there and do what I had been practicing and it'll come together sooner or later."

"Well, all I can say is that Serena a little bit raised her game, and I started to be a little bit more careful on the court," Petrova said.

In a back-and-forth third set, Williams claimed the first two games, Petrova the next two. The American broke Petrova in the sixth game and held for a 5-2 advantage, then closed out the Russian two games later.

"I think it was a good test of my fitness," Williams said. "I'm fit and I'm ready. I felt like I had another game to play after the match."

Williams will face either No. 11 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia or Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the fourth round.

Second seed and defending champion Amelie Mauresmo of France moved on to the fourth round by crushing Eva Birnerova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-1. Mauresmo next will take on Czech Lucie Safarova, who held a 6-3 lead over Anastasiya Yakimova when the Belarussian retired with a back injury.

Third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated 26th seed and fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko, 6-1, 6-4, in another third-round match. She will oppose either No. 16 Shahar Peer of Israel or No. 20 Tatiana Golovin of France.

Also, No. 7 Elena Dementieva of Russia plays Italian Maria Elena Camerin and No. 10 Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic takes on No. 21 Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia.

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