Serena Williams‘ power game was on point against 5-foot-4 1/2 Zheng Jie, but still struggled to defeat her diminutive foe in the third round of Wimbledon today.
Williams boomed 23 aces and held every service game, yet Zheng, made the four-time champion at All England Club earn her 6-7 (5), 6-2, 9-7 victory.
Zheng was brilliant. She only had one ace, but only had 17 unforced errors and from the baseline she fashioned solid strokes in a beautiful, consistent effort.
But Williams erased all six break points she faced, served three times to stay in the match and held each time at love. She was pushed to deuce serving in the final game but closed out the victory with a volley winner, then hopped in glee — and relief — on the Centre Court grass.
Williams rocketed a return to break for an 8-7 lead in the final set, then showed how much she wanted to win, throwing back her head and letting out a long scream. She has been stalled at 13 Grand Slam titles since winning Wimbledon for the fourth time in 2010, and dealt with a series of health issues in 2010-11.
In the final set, Williams overcame a love-40 deficit to hold for 2-all. Two games later, when she bounced a kick second serve over her opponent’s head for an ace, Zheng managed a laugh. Later in the set Williams won 14 consecutive service points, including three aces in one game to reach 7-all. She held 18 times and lost only 18 of 98 service points.
On Monday, Williams will face Yarsolave Shvedova of Kazakhstan, who won all 24 points in the first set — a so-called “golden set” — and beat French Open runner-up Sara Errani 6-0, 6-4. It’s the first known golden set by a woman in the Open era, the International Tennis Federation said, and the BBC showed a highlight package of all 24 points.
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