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Stuttering Serena reaches Australian Open third round

Thursday, January 22, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 12:18 PM

MELBOURNE – Three-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams has stumbled into the third round with a patchy display that did little to justify the bookies' belief she can snatch a fourth title.

Stuttering Serena reaches Australian Open third round Serena Williams of the US attempts to return the ball in her game against Gisela Dulko of Argentina

Serena, seeded two, appeared to be cruising to a win over Gisela Dulko of Argentina but instead found herself engaged in a 6-3, 7-5 dogfight lasting almost two hours.

"It was definitely a tough second set, she was just playing unbelievable and started hitting winners left and right," the American said.

"She had some opportunities but I never felt like I was going to lose. I feel like I can play a lot better and hopefully I will."

Serena was up 3-0 in less than 10 minutes and threatened to race away with the match before the Argentine desperately defended her serve to claw back a game and make it 3-1.

Serena, previously criticised for lacking focus in the early rounds of Grand Slams, appeared to drift off towards the end of the first set, throwing away three set points as Dulko served at 5-2.

The American then lifted her intensity and deployed one of the most lethal serves in the women's game, blasting down three aces to take the set after 31 minutes.

Dulko, who has never made it past the second round at the Australian Open in five attempts, then ran Serena around the court to earn a break in the second game of the second set.

The Argentine held serve to go up 3-0 before Serena broke back three games later.

The reigning US champion's frustration was evident after Dulko regained the advantage in the next and her error rate crept up as the set went 5-3 against her.

Screaming "Oh my God" at one point when a backhand return went long, she rallied to save one set point with a pinpoint cross court return.

Dulko then threw away three more with a double fault and two unforced errors.

But Serena struggled to capitalise on three of her own break points as the game went to deuce 12 times, finally benefitting from a poorly hit Dulko return to make it 5-4.

While the crowd was cheering for the slightly-built Dulko, Serena had regained control by this stage and completed a five-game winning streak to claim victory.

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