Serena Williams erased three breaks in the final set to stave off an upset bid by home favourite Heather Watson in the third round at Wimbledon on Friday.
Williams was broken twice to trail 3-0 in the decider before turning things around, winning 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 to keep alive her bid to become only the fourth woman to complete a grand slam.
Williams went up 4-3 in the final set only to be broken again in the ninth game, giving Watson a chance to serve out the match.
Williams broke right back, however, and held to love, then converted her third match point.
The 59th-ranked Watson had the partisan Centre Court crowd roaring throughout but fell short of becoming the first British woman to beat a No 1 since Sue Barker defeated Chris Evert in Boston in 1979.
Williams will next face big sister Venus in the fourth round. Venus had no such problems as she defeated Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic 6-3, 6-2.
After her victory over Watson, Serena told the BBC: “I have had some tough losses, but that was the toughest match I have played on Centre Court. She played unbelievable and should have won the match, but she gave her all and showed what a great player she is.
“She could get even beyond the top 20, she is playing really well. She should get her sights higher. She was playing so good, there was nothing I could do.
“I will speak to Venus over the weekend. She is in better form than me, she has the advantage.”
Fourth-seeded Maria Sharapova moved serenely into the Wimbledon fourth round with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu yesterday.
The 28-year-old Russian, champion at the All England Club in 2004, overpowered her 29th-seeded opponent on a sun-drenched Court 1 to take her place in the last 16.
Sharapova wasted a chance to close out the match when she served for victory at 5-1 in the second set but did not let another chance go by and completed victory in one hour, 23 minutes.
“I got broken in the first game then played good tennis at 4-4 to go up 5-4,” Sharapova said. “The first set gave me confidence, played good in the second. I knew Begu would not go anywhere.
“Obviously you expect to go further in the tournament, expect better things for yourself. You have to raise your level as you progress through the tournament. There is only one champion in the end and the one who raises their game is the champion.”
Sharapova said memories of her 17-year-old self winning her first grand slam title at the All England Club motivated her to reclaim the Venus Rosewater Dish.
“No doubt about that. That’s certainly something I think about every time I step onto the grounds,” she said.
“The memories of being a champion, the experience of going through those two weeks not expecting myself to be the champion at that stage in my career, yet holding up the plate – I am always carrying those memories with me every time I step on the court here.”
Follow us on twitter at @NatSportUAE