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SONY ERICSSON OPEN

Venus Shrugs Off Slow Start

Miami, USA

Venus Williams - Sony Ericsson Open - Miami© Getty ImagesVenus Williams last won the Sony Ericsson Open title in 2001.

Venus Williams dropped eight of the first nine games against Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova Monday before rallying to win a cliffhanger 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 and move closer to a fourth Sony Ericsson Open title.

Coming into the match Williams had dropped just one set to Hantuchova in nine career meetings. But the former Indian Wells champion exploded out of the blocks, claiming a double break for a 4-0 lead and soon after had clinched the first set 6-1.

“I haven't seen her play so well in a long time, so I think she was really executing her game,” Williams said.“Conversely, I was a little bit off and struggling to find the court and everything else. Days like this you just have to figure out a way to win the point, even if it's not pretty. So I enjoy that battle.

“Of course, I'd like to win more straightforward, but when it counts and times get tough, I always feel confident that I'm gonna find a way to win the point.”

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By the time she took a 2-0 lead in the second set, Hantuchova had won eight of the first nine games of the match before Williams broke back after hitting two down-the-line backhand winners.

The three-time Sony Ericsson Open champion went on a four-game winning streak to move to 4-2 and despite being broken at 5-4 when serving for the set, soon after forced a decider. At 4-all Hantuchova rallied from 15/40 to earn a game point but Williams eventually broke and emphatically served out the match.

Williams hit double the winners - 35 to 17 – but also made 41 unforced errors, including six double faults.

Williams next meets sixth seed Agnieszka Radwanska and if she can win that will face no player seeded in the Top 10 in the semi-finals.

In the opposite half of the draw, ninth-seeded Australian Samantha Stosur took out newly crowned Indian Wells champion Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 7-6(9).  Stosur hit eight aces and dropped just seven points on her first serve as she fended off two of just three break points faced.

Kim Clijsters unceremoniously ended the title defense of fourth seed Victoria Azarenka, handing the Belarusian a 6-4, 6-0 defeat. Azarenka managed just nine winners against the reigning US Open champion, who now meets Stosur. Clijsters, who owns 36 tour-level titles, won the 2005 Sony Ericsson Open title without dropping a set.

Second seed Caroline Wozniacki needed little more than an hour to dismiss Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-2 to set up a quarter-final meeting with former World No. 1 Justine Henin, who breezed past 11th seed Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 6-4 in the night match.

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