Venus Williams rallies past Kiki Bertens at Miami Open

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Venus Williams rallies past Kiki Bertens at Miami Open
Venus Williams returns to Kiki Bertens, of the Netherlands, during the Miami Open tennis tournament, Sunday, March 25, 2018, in Key Biscayne, Fla. Williams won 5-7, 6-3, 7-5. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) — When Venus Williams slammed a forehand winner on the final point to win a seesaw marathon Sunday, she had enough energy left to spin in delight at the net, a triumphant fist leading the way.

Some 21 years after her Key Biscayne debut, wins at the Miami Open remain something to celebrate.

Williams squandered an early lead, fell behind late and then overcame three match points to rally past Kiki Bertens in the third round, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.

Williams blew a 5-0 lead in the first set and was down 5-3 in the third set. But she swept the final four games, holding serve at love for the victory.

“It didn’t look good sometimes,” Williams told the supportive crowd. “But that’s why you keep playing until the last point. And that’s why I love this game.”

The match took nearly three hours on the hottest day of the tournament so far, and the 37-year-old Williams now must recover quickly to next play defending champion Johanna Konta. The No. 11-seeded Konta advanced with much less drama, beating No. 22 Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-1.

In men’s play, No. 2 Marin Cilic swept Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 7-6 (4).

Williams regrouped after a disastrous opening set, which she was four times a single point from winning. In the final set she erased two match points at 5-3, and another in the next game.

The stadium was nearly full by the finish. Williams, who lives in South Florida and has long been a favorite with Key Biscayne fans, said they kept her going.

“I felt everybody behind me,” she told them. “My opponent played well. I had a lot of chances; she had a lot of chances. I hope it was really entertaining for you all.”

Williams, who is seeded No. 8, won the tournament way back in 1998, 1999 and 2001. Last year she reached the semifinal, and this year she outlasted her sister, eight-time champion Serena Williams, who was upset in the first round.

“I love it here,” Venus said. “This was my first big win. I have a lot of great memories. I hope I can get another win this year. You never know.”

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