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Serena roars back in Madrid

Serena Williams produced a battling display yesterday to overcome thigh and back injuries and beat Vera Dushevina at the Madrid Open, recovering from a set and a match point down to win 6-7, 7-6, 7-6.

However, it was not such a good day for third seed and defending champion Dinara Safina, who became the latest big name to tumble out of the women's tournament.

Williams lost the first set and also saved a match point against Dushevina before eventually seeing off her Russian opponent in three hours and 26 minutes.

It was the longest match of Williams' career but ensured the top seed, who needed treatment for a thigh problem, got back to winning ways after the disappointment of losing to Jelena Jankovic in the semi-finals in Rome last week.

Williams, who held a match point in the deciding set against Jankovic, said: "I felt really bad about losing last time when I had match point and I just wanted to hang in there today.

"I feel really proud because I definitely wasn't playing my best tennis. I was far off from playing well.

"Also, after playing a match for three hours, at that point I was determined to win."

Looking ahead to the rest of the tournament at La Caja Magica, Williams added: "I just plan to play better.

"I was a little off today, but it's all about looking to the future."

Venus Williams, the fourth seed, had a much easier time of it, seeing off another Russian, Vera Zvonareva, 7-5 6-3 in the second round.

Francesca Schiavone also had a comfortable victory as she beat Sybille Bammer 6-2 6-1.

The big casualty was Safina, who has only recently returned to action following a back injury.

Safina lost to Czech qualifier Klara Zakopalova 7-6 (7/1) 7-6 (7/3) to join Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin in making an early exit.

The only other seed to fall today was number 10 Victoria Azarenka, who was 3-0 down to wildcard Shuai Peng in the first set when she retired.

Number two and last year's runner-up Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark was one of a host of seeds to progress after she beat Petra Kvitova 6-4 6-2.

Also victorious were number eight seed Samantha Stosur, Flavia Pennetta (14) and Nadia Petrova (16).

Chinese number one and 13th seed Li Na, who will donate all her prize money from Madrid to the relief effort following the recent earthquakes in her home country, was also victorious.