Madrid: Serena Williams drew on all her battling qualities to get past unseeded Vera Dushevina into the third round of the Madrid Open on Monday, coming back from a set down and saving a match point for a 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 success.
The American world number one, who won her 12th grand slam title at January`s Australian Open before injury sidelined her for three months, looked to be on her way out of the clay event when the Russian held a match point at 6-5 in the second set.
Berating herself and appealing to watching coach and father Richard Williams throughout the match, she clawed her way back and took the deciding set despite having a long treatment break for what appeared to be right thigh and lower back problems.
She squandered one match point with a wild backhand at 6-4 in the third-set tiebreak, but a ninth ace on the next point prompted a bellow of delight from the pink-clad 28-year-old.
Williams avoided the fate of three other grand slam champions, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova, who all exited in the first round.
Third seed Dinara Safina and fourth seed Venus Williams are in action later on Monday.
In first round action, 16th seed Nadia Petrova beat Russian compatriot Elena Vesnina 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.