Venus: This is really what I need
HONG KONG (AFP) - Venus Williams battled back from one set down as she wore down big-serving Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) to reach the final of the Watsons Water Champions Challenge.
For a second successive night, Williams was forced to pull out all the stops having been stretched to three sets against Russias Vera Zvonareva on Thursday in another Green Group match.
But she was made to work even harder as she survived a nail-biting encounter to earn the right to meet another Russian, Elena Dementieva, for the title.
Williams was down 4-1 in the third set as Kuznetsova dominated her opponent with a powerful baseline game, but the 24-year-old American fought back, playing ferocious tennis to force the match into a tiebreaker.
Williams won the tiebreaker after the Russian played a return long for the American to start the celebrations, jumping into the air and blowing kisses to the crowd.
The high quality match lasted two hours and 15 minutes and Williams said she was blessed to have played a tough opponent as she prepares for this month's Australian Open .
"This is really what I need," said Williams moments after her energy-sapping encounter. "Playing against all the top players, I need these challenges. I need coming back from behind, she said.
Asked about her final match against world number six Dementieva, Williams said: "She's a great player. I just feel like I played so well so far and at the right moment and I hope to continue that. Each time I am playing better."
Williams, who won last year's Hong Kong title in her first tournament appearance in six months because of an injury lay-off, then turned and thanked the crowd for their support, saying: "Oh my gosh, you guys are right behind me, thank you. I have to thank my physio for making me workout because now I am shape.