Venus Williams found a third gear in her third set Wednesday and staved off an upset bid by Magda Linette to capture a 6-3, 6-7(8-6), 6-2 victory in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
The No. 1 seed Williams, who made her professional debut at the Bank of the West in 1994, led 4-2 in the second set and looked to be on her way to a straight-sets win. But Linette, a native of Poznan, Poland, refused to let Williams close it out too easily.
"She was such a fighter," Williams said. "Every time I thought the match was over she kept it going."
Linette rallied to 6-6 in that second set and then after trailing 2-0 in the tiebreaker she reeled off six straight winners.
Williams, cheered on by many in the crowd, came back to make it 6-6 before Linette closed out the tiebreaker to even the match.
But right when the 36-year-old Williams might have been expected to succumb to fatigue, she came out strong in the third set, jumping to a 4-0 lead and going on to a 6-2 victory.
"You have to give her credit because she kept on fighting,'' Williams said. "It was a good thing for me because I had to raise the level of my game. I definitely feel when I get pushed that I can raise the level of my game.''
Williams will play the winner of Thursday's match between CiCi Bellis and Sachia Vickery. And yes, she said it would be real nice to get a win at the tournament where it all started for her.
"It's been wonderful doing something I love all these years," Williams said, addressing her adoring fans on the court immediately after the match. "And I'm not going to stop any time soon."
In doubles play, Nicole Gibbs and Carol Zhao, both formerly of Stanford, lost to the team of Jelena Ostapenko and Arina Rodionova 6-4, 6-4.