- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

2:10 p.m.

WIMBLEDON, England — Venus Williams waited until the last minute to get going.

Down a set and 5-2, the defending champion won 11 of the next 13 games to stave off a huge upset and beat Lisa Raymond 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-2 today 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.

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 was only the second time Nadal has come back from a two-set deficit.

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.

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

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.

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 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.”

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