Venus Williams Makes Wimbledon Comeback

Venus Williams won 11 of the last 13 games after being down a set and 5-2 to stave off a huge upset and beat Lisa Raymond 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-2 on Thursday in the second round at Wimbledon.

The three-time champion was two points from defeat, when Raymond served for the match leading 5-3 in the second set, before she roared back to overcome the 84th-ranked American.

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At one stretch, Williams won 34 of 39 points, including 18 in a row. She won six of her last seven service games at love, and closed out the match with her 11th ace.

French Open champion Rafael Nadal pulled off a similar escape, coming back from two sets down to defeat 237th-ranked American qualifier Robert Kendrick on Centre Court.

Kendrick, who plays mainly on the lower-tier challenger circuit, came within two points of victory in the fourth set before the Spaniard took charge to win 6-7 (4), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-4. It's only the second time Nadal has come back from a two-set deficit.

"He was very tough, he was serving unbelievable," Nadal said of Kendrick, who had 28 aces. "I was playing with a very good attitude all the time because it was very tough."

Nadal will next face Andre Agassi, who beat Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-4 to extend his run in his 14th and final Wimbledon.

"He's very confident, great competitor," Agassi said of Nadal, who has won 60 straight clay-court matches but has never been past the third round on the grass at Wimbledon. "Needless to say, very talented and fit. So it's going to be a hard match."

The two have played only once, with Nadal beating Agassi in the final of the Masters Series event in Montreal on hard courts last year.

"It's a nice match for me, so it's a nice match for everybody," Nadal said. "It's going to be tough."

The 36-year-old Agassi, the oldest player in the men's draw, dropped serve only once — while going for the second set — and broke three times to subdue the 68th-ranked Seppi.

"That was a considerable improvement," he said. "I felt much better today. Felt pretty good."

Just as he had after his opening round win Tuesday on Centre Court, Agassi received a raucous standing ovation from the fans on Court 1. Agassi, who won the first of his eight Grand Slam titles here in 1992, announced last weekend that he will retire after the U.S. Open in September.

"It means the world to me," he said of the fans' reception. "I want to go out there and do something special for them. I want to be my best."

In women's play, top-seeded Amelie Mauresmo beat Samatha Stosur, 6-4, 6-2, her fourth straight win over the 50th-ranked Australian. The Frenchwoman has reached the Wimbledon semifinals three times.

Maria Sharapova, the 2004 women's champion, overpowered Ashley Harkleroad 6-2, 6-2 in 67 minutes. The match was slightly tougher than her 51-minute 6-2, 6-0 win the previous day over Anna Smashnova.

"I didn't think I had a enough of a challenge to see where my game was at in the first round," the third-seeded Russian said. "The points were very quick. But today I played a few rallies and I definitely did a lot of good things."

Sharapova had too much power and consistency for the 76th-ranked American, who had reached the second round for only the first time in four attempts.

Sharapova, her shriek-like grunts carrying beyond the Court 2 stands, took control by winning 14 of 15 points at one stretch in the first set. She finished with 27 winners and 12 unforced errors. Harkleroad, mostly on the defensive, had four winners and seven errors.

Sharapova saved a break point — the only one she faced — and needed five match points before she closed out the contest when Harkleroad sent a backhand wide.

"I definitely played pretty solid today," the Russian said. "But it's only going to get tougher from here. It's a matter of stepping it up and coming up with the goods when I need it."

On the men's side, 2002 winner Lleyton Hewitt and two-time runner-up Andy Roddick were also scheduled to play second-round matches.

Getting the day off was Roger Federer, who says he's never been in such dominant form so early in the championships — a scary thought for any player planning to stop him from winning his fourth straight title on the All England Club grass.