INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (Reuters) - Venus Williams staged a spirited comeback to down third seed Petra Kvitova 4-6 7-5 6-4 and reach the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Saturday.
The 38-year-old American turned back the clock in the final two sets, dialing up the speed on her first serves and playing stout defense to seal a win that looked unlikely when she was down two breaks in the second set.
The seven-times Grand Slam champion threw her arms in the air and let out a roar when Kvitova sent a ball long on match point — the Czech’s 56th unforced error of the day.
Williams tipped her hat to the two-times Wimbledon champion after the hard-fought contest.
“She has been playing so well and you never know what’s going to come off her racket,” Williams said in front of a fawning crowd in her native Southern California.
“I was just happy to have your energy to get pumped up. I just love the battle.”
Another American, Madison Keys, earlier blew a late lead to fall 3-6 6-1 7-5 to German Mona Barthel.
The 17th-seed had the match on her racket serving with a 5-4 lead in the third set but lost three straight games, including her final service game at love, to allow the unseeded Barthel to advance.
Next up for Barthel is a meeting with either Estonian Kaia Kanepi or countrywoman Julia Gorges, who play their second-round match later on Saturday.
Barthel’s compatriot Angelique Kerber was nearly perfect en route to a 6-0 6-2 dismantling of Yulia Putintseva, winning 93 percent of her first service points under sunny skies in the Southern California desert.
The eighth seed will meet red-hot Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva in the third round after the qualifier crushed Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2 6-0 earlier in the day.
Czech Karolina Pliskova, Latvian Anastasija Sevastova, and Americans Danielle Collins and Christina McHale were among the other players who prevailed in their second-round matches on Saturday.
Reporting by Rory Carroll, editing by Nick Mulvenney