STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Venus Williams feels like the hometown girl when she plays at Stanford even though she grew up in Southern California and currently resides in Florida.
She has enjoyed a lot of success here, made her professional debut at the event, and the crowd was clearly supporting her.
"It's nice to have that support," Williams said after advancing to the Bank of the West quarterfinals Thursday night, beating fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 7-6 (1).
"It was good to hear the 'oohs' and 'aahs' for both of us," the unseeded Williams said. "I don't want to let anybody down. This year has been a lot more relaxing than Southern California."
Williams and Azarenka, both former world No. 1s, are working their way back to high level tennis following injuries and illness. Williams, who is 4-0 against the Belarusian, appears slightly ahead in her development.
"It's always great to get a win against a player like Victoria, who is a champion," Williams said. "We played a high level and it got better as the match went on."
After the 10th-ranked Azarenka, who celebrated her 25th birthday, saved three match points to tie it 6-6, Williams won the first five points in the tiebreaker.
"The tiebreaker felt great," Williams said. "It brought out my best tennis. I needed the challenge."
Azarenka's second serve was the biggest difference between the hard-hitting players. She won just 32 percent of her second serves, handing Williams a significant advantage.
"We both had good points," Azarenka said. "Venus was a little better on her execution on important points. I have to be realistic and look at the things that have to be done. It's not easy being patient but if I wanted easy, I'd go sit on a couch."
Despite losing, Azarenka was glad to be playing tennis on her birthday.
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