MIAMI // The women's world No 1 Serena Williams struggled to an unconvincing 7-5 5-7 6-3 win over China's Zheng Jie on Monday to earn a place in the quarter-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open. Williams had let a 5-0 lead in the first set slip as she was hauled back to 5-5, before she bounced back to take the set. But, she failed to kick on from there and the tenacious Zheng fought back to level things up as she took the second set.
But Williams found her range in the final set and she served out the match in style with three successive aces. "I don't think I played great and I thought she played probably her best tennis yet," said Williams. "I think I started out great and then maybe lost my focus. I am just happy to get through it," she added. She next plays Li Na of China, who defeated Ekaterina Makarova 6-7, 6-2, 6-2 in her clash, while her older sister Venus, who she could play in all Williams semi-final won 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska.
The one surprise on Monday was the exit of the world No 4 Elena Dementieva, who lost in straight sets 7-5, 6-4 to Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki. Meanwhile, in the men's competition, there were victories for Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. The Spanish world No 1 Nadal came back from having his opening service game broken by Portugal's Frederico Gil to come through 7-5, 6-3 and reach the last 16.
Nadal wasn't fully satisfied with his performance, and said: "You can't play well every day, and today was one of these days. "No opponent is easy, especially if you are not playing your best tennis." The world No 4 Murray was also not at his best as he came through 6-4, 6-4 against the Chilean Nicolas Massu, having to come from 3-0 down in the first set before he won it. The Briton then frittered away a 5-1 lead in the second set, and had to overcome two break points in the 10th game before he finally clinched the set and the match.
Murray admitted his serving had let him down, saying: "I missed a lot of first serves early on and it was giving him a chance on my second serve to get into the points." Nadal was in action against Switzerland's Stanilas Wawrinka last night, while Murray was due to take on Viktor Troicki of Serbia. * With agencies