Serena survives first round scare

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The Serena slump almost doomed the "Serena slam" in the first round of the Australian Open. Serena Williams survived a second-set tiebreaker and finally prevail

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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The Serena slump almost doomed the "Serena slam" in the first round of the Australian Open. Serena Williams survived a second-set tiebreaker and finally prevailed 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 over 56th-ranked Emilie Loit of France in two hours, three minutes on Tuesday, despite spraying 55 unforced errors around the court. The victory kept alive Williams' chances of winning four Grand Slam tournaments in a row. She defeated elder sister Venus in the championship matches at the French and US Opens and Wimbledon last year. But she missed a chance at a true slam - all four major titles in one calendar year - when she twisted her ankle in a tune-up event for last year's Australian Open. "I don't think I was playing nearly at 100 percent," Williams said. "I think I was a bit lucky to pull that through. I think it was a little bit of the nerves. I had never lost in the first round of a Grand Slam." But with her mother and Venus watching from the stands, Williams almost was chased from the only Grand Slam event she's never won. "It was definitely a big sigh," Williams said after Loit netted an inside-out forehand passing shot on the third match point. Loit, who'd thought her left-handed shots might bother Williams, added: "I was feeling so good on the court, I thought anything could happen." She said the stress she was feeling before the match, which caused a largely sleepless night, melted away in irritation over what she perceived as a sneer by Williams when Loit won the toss and chose to receive. "Later on in the match, when I saw her getting irritated and losing it a bit, I really enjoyed that," Loit said. "In the end, she was very pleasant. She said the usual kind of things." Shaky start Venus started on Monday by losing the first three games, but quickly rebounded for a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova. Serena won her first game, but then quickly fell behind with her wild shooting. She stared into the stands with a look on her face that said "Help!" and at one point started to throw down her racket, but caught herself. She received a warning in the second set for an audible obscenity. After Williams took a 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker, Loit rebounded to 5-4 thanks to two Williams errors and a backhand winner down the line. Williams reached match point with an ace, followed with a double fault, but won the set when Loit hit a forehand long. Loit gained the first break of the final set for 3-2, but Williams immediately broke back. The French player saved two match points while trailing 5-4 with a forehand winner and a drop shot, but then couldn't hold serve despite leading 40-30 in the last game. The Australian Open has been troublesome in the past for both Williams sisters. Serena never has advanced past the quarterfinals. Venus was a semifinalist once, in 2001. (AP)

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