Five-time champion Venus Williams was relieved to navigate her way through a “perfect storm” against Japan's Kimiko Date-Krumm to reach the third round of Wimbledon.
As rainclouds hovered over the All England Club, Date-Krumm took an incredible first set on a tie-break but only after Williams had battled from 5-1 down and saved a total of seven set points.
At times, the tennis was of the highest quality as Date-Krumm attacked Williams' serve and the American scrapped her way back into the set.
Eventually, 40-year-old Date-Krumm clinched the first set tie-break after an hour and four minutes.
Williams had found her rhythm though and the American moved a break up early in the second set.
She drew level in the match before prevailing in a hard-fought third set to clinch a 6-7 (6/8) 6-3 8-6 victory in nearly three hours.
“I was very serious about trying to get the win. Even when I was 1-5 down and then 2-6 down in the tie-break I was trying to win the set,” said Williams.
“I thought she played unbelievable today. I thought she had some luck on her side with net-cords and balls hitting lines.
“No-one would come to the net as much as she does. This is a great surface for her too. It was a perfect storm for her to try to get a win. Thankfully I had some answers. I thought my movement was really good and I was competing really well.
“When you play an opponent like that you just have to get into that competitive mode and compete, no matter what happens.”
Williams has been sidelined for most of the year with a hip injury suffered at the Australian Open and she only made her comeback at Eastbourne last week.
At 31 she is a senior player on the women's tour, but not quite as senior in terms of her age as Date-Krumm, who made the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1996 before spending 12 years in retirement.
“In terms of feeling my age, I definitely feel the experience of it all,” said Williams.
“I think that's huge for me. Experience is huge on court because that is what really gets you to the win, besides skill and everything else.”
The roof was closed over Centre Court as rain fell over the rest of Wimbledon early in the afternoon, and Williams and Date Krumm offered the crowd, which included the Duchess of Cornwall, some high-class entertainment.
“Today was a good fight for me. She's a five-time champion and I can fight with her. This was a good match for me. As long as I am enjoying it I will continue playing,” said Date-Krumm.
Second-seeded 2010 runner-up Vera Zvonareva got past fellow Russian Elena Vesnina 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) in 1 hour, 25 minutes.
Zvonareva advanced despite striking only 12 winners and will now meet Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova tomorrow.