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By Chris Oddo/ Wednesday, September 25, 2013

 

Venus Williams battled past a fiery Simona Halep on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open.

Photo Source: AP

A gritty, resilient Venus Williams battled past one of the tour's hottest players on Wednesday night in Tokyo, as the 33-year-old American defeated Romania's Simona Halep, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.

The victory for Williams matches her best ever performance in Tokyo. She reached the quarterfinals in her first appearance at the event in 2004.

“It was a very tough match,” Williams said to the crowd after the two-hour and 25-minute see-saw affair. “She played very well. I don’t know how I was able to win the match. I just wanted to stay in Japan longer.”

Already, her stay has been longer than expected.

Williams, who upset world No. 2 Victoria Azarenka on Tuesday evening for her first win against a top two player since 2009, looked to be headed to defeat after she dropped serve to fall behind 4-3 in the second set against an in-form Halep, but the world No. 63 would stage a fierce rally to level the set and eventually break Halep in the 12th game of the set to even the match at one set apiece.

With Williams playing her third match in three days against an opponent 12 years her junior, the question was whether or not the seven-time Grand Slam champion could keep bringing the fight to Halep in the third set. In addition to Sjogren's Syndrome, the autoimmune deficiency that has sabotaged her health for the last few years, Williams has also had to deal with debilitating lower back issues that have made it difficult for her to serve and to play the type of aggressive tennis that has become her trademark over the years.

But on this evening, nothing seemed to be holding Williams back, and each time she fell behind she was able to reach inside herself for more bullets to fire back at Halep.

Halep, in the midst of a career year that has seen her capture four titles (second on the WTA Tour) in 2013, would jump out to a 2-0 lead in the third set only to see Williams rally once again.

If there was any advantage to be had for Williams, it was on the serve. Halep served 78 percent in the first set, but saw her levels drop in the second and third, to 52 and 57 percent respectively. The Romanian also tossed in eight of her nine double faults in the final two sets and ended up being broken a total of seven times on the match.

Williams struggled as well on serve, facing 15 break points on the evening and saving nine, but after breaking Halep to take a 5-3 lead in the final set, Williams used her legendary serve beautifully to earn a love hold, closing out the match when her angled forehand crosscourt passing shot proved too tough for Halep to volley.

It was a hard-fought and inspirational victory for Williams, and it came against one of the tour's hottest players in a very physical match. There are many who doubt that Williams will never be the same player that she was before illness and injuries took hold of her career, but Williams seems intent on proving the doubters wrong. Tonight, she certainly made believers out of many.

Williams will face another youngster on Thursday in the quarterfinals, as Canada's Eugenie Bouchard upset sixth-seeded Jelena Jankovic for her second top ten win earlier in the evening, 7-5, 6-2.

In other action, fourth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki made short work of Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-1, 6-1.


 

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