Australian Open: Venus Williams battles past inspired Kateryna Kozlova

Australian Open: Venus Williams battles past inspired Kateryna Kozlova

In what was a highly entertaining affair, the 36-year old legend fended off her feisty Ukrainian opponent.

John Lupo

Venus Williams held off a stern challenge by Kateryna Kozlova with a 7-6 (5), 7-5 win in two hours and one minute. The seven-time Grand Slam champion progresses to round two at the Australian Open.

Williams fights to win first set tiebreaker from a break down twice

This is the second straight major in which Kozlova and Williams met, the American gaining the upper hand in a three-set win in the first round of last year's U.S. Open. It was the Ukranian who made the bright start with a break to take the early lead. Both players faced break points in their next service games, but neither were able to convert.

Williams was putting the pressure on and finally in the eighth game, it paid off she drew level at 4-4. The slugfest continued as matching holds to 30 set the stage for a dramatic finish to the opening set.

The momentum gained by the seven-time major champion spilled over to the tiebreak as Williams raced out to a 5-2 lead. Kozlova would draw to within 6-5 before the American closed out the set with an ace.

Williams wins seesaw second set to advance

It was more of the same as the two players continued to exchange blows in the second set. Williams struck first with a crisp backhand winner to break and take a 2-1 lead. Kozlova would again respond, breaking in the sixth game on the back of the American's wayward forehand.

After both players settled down to hold, Williams had a chance to break, going ahead 15-40 on Kozlova's serve on the back of a pair of double faults by the Ukrainian and when she misfired on a forehand, Williams was a game away. She held to love, striking three winners to close out an entertaining straight sets win and advance to the second round against Stefanie Voegele.