Madrid: Victoria Azarenka double-faulted on match point and allowed Serena Williams to reach the Madrid Open quarterfinals with a 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (1) win on Wednesday.
After early breaks in the deciding set, Williams overshot a forehand to trail 6-5. Azarenka reached match point on serve, but double-faulted. Three consecutive double faults made it 6-6.
Williams dominated the tiebreaker, and improved her head-to-head record against Azarenka to 9-0.
"She almost hit an ace, she missed it by not even three centimeters, I thought 'wow'," Williams said. "This is definitely an escape. I've had some other escapes, but I don't think I've been down love-40 on someone's serve before."
After an injury-affected season last year, Azarenka, a two-time finalist, was unseeded in Madrid for the first time.
"She's absolutely on her way back," Williams said of Azarenka's return to form. "It's so good to see a Grand Slam champion like her playing so well."
Defending champion Maria Sharapova advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Caroline Garcia of France 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
The third-seeded Russian, who is making her sixth appearance at the Madrid tournament, broke her opponent's serve five times but was broken three times.
"It came down to a few points in the third set," said Sharapova. "She was going for it. I could have had a higher percentage of first serves in, but even on good second serves she stepped in and hit really good shots and there was not much I could do until she started making a few errors."
Also, fourth-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-1, 6-4, and Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania beat Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4.
In the men's tournament, seventh-seeded David Ferrer defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 6-0, while John Isner beat Thomaz Bellucci 7-6 (5), 6-7 (11), 6-1 and Simone Bolelli beat Luca Vanni 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.