London: Serena Williams hit 23 aces, held every service game and barely escaped an upset bid by Zheng Jie, winning 6-7 (5), 6-2, 9-7 on Saturday in the third round at Wimbledon. Meanwhile, second-ranked Victoria Azarenka broke little sweat to brush aside Slovakian qualifier Jana Cepelova 6-3, 6-3.
Williams, who erased all six break points she faced, served three times to stay in the match and held each time at love. She was pushed to deuce serving in the final game but closed out the victory with a volley winner, then hopped in glee on the Centre Court grass.
The scrappy, 5-feet-4-inch Zheng played with little flash but plenty of consistency, committing only 17 unforced errors.
Williams rocketed a return to break for an 8-7 lead in the final set, then showed how much she wanted to win, throwing back her head and letting out a long scream.
Azarenka reached the fourth round for the third time by beating Cepelova in a one-sided match. Azarenka reached the semi-finals last year at the All England Club before losing to eventual champion Petra Kvitova. They are now two rounds away from a re-match in the semi-finals.
Azarenka broke the 178th-ranked Cepelova five times while losing her serve twice. She is looking for her second Grand Slam title after winning this year's Australian Open as part of a 26-match winning streak.
Cepelova was playing in her first Grand Slam tournament.