LONDON - No slow start for Venus Williams this time.
After struggling in tight first sets in her opening two matches, the defending champion dispatched Spanish qualifier Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 6-1, 7-5, yesterday to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon.
Williams served out the match at love and finished with a 127-mile-per-hour delivery - the fastest by a woman at Wimbledon - for her 11th ace.
"Yeah, 127 is a good way to end it," said Williams, who holds the WTA Tour record at 129 m.p.h.
The four-time champion was barely tested in the first set by the 101st-ranked player. But Williams was pushed to the limit in the second when Martinez Sanchez switched to an effective serve-and-volley game.
"I was very pleased with the performance," the seventh-seeded Williams said. "Things got close in the second set. She was really playing well, and I had to come up with something more than she was giving."
Also advancing to the round of 16 was No. 2-seeded Jelena Jankovic. She rallied after dropping the first set and overcame a knee injury to down 17-year-old Danish player Caroline Wozniacki, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, on Centre Court.
Jankovic appeared to hyperextend her left knee while lunging for a shot in the first set and later took an injury timeout to get her knee heavily wrapped. Jankovic plans to have an MRI before facing Tamarine Tanasugarn in the fourth round tomorrow.
"It's very sore now," Jankovic said. "I hope for the best so that I will be able to play my next match."
In men's play, second-ranked Rafael Nadal charged into the fourth round with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, 6-3 win over Nicolas Kiefer in fading light on Centre Court.
Nadal is bidding to become the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to consecutively win the French Open and Wimbledon. He was broken for the first time while serving for the match in the third set. Two games later, the Spaniard held at love to close it out.
The 25-year-old Martinez Sanchez had never won a singles match at a major until this tournament and looked out of her depth in the first set against the six-time major winner. But the lefthander scored repeatedly with serve-and-volley winners and angled drop shots and drop volleys in the second set.
"It was a great strategy," Williams said. "In the first set it wasn't working for her from the baseline. I was impressed with the way she changed strategy and made it really competitive in the second."
The Spaniard rallied from 3-1 down to go ahead, 5-4, on serve. But she double faulted on break point to give Williams a 6-5 lead. Williams finished with 33 winners, as well as 10 unforced errors and six double faults.
She had played erratically in her first two matches against modest British opponents on Centre Court, winning the first set in a tiebreaker against Naomi Cavaday and pressed to 7-5 in the first set against Anne Keothavong.
Williams will next face 18-year-old Russian Alisa Kleybanova, who is into the second week in her Wimbledon debut after defeating Ai Sugiyama, 6-4, 6-4.
French Open runner-up Dinara Safina struggled with a thigh injury and lost to Shahar Peer, 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 8-6.
Other women advancing to the round of 16 were fifth-seeded Elena Dementieva, No. 21 Nadia Petrova, and 154th-ranked Alla Kudryavtseva, who followed her upset of Maria Sharapova by beating Peng Shuai, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.
Men's winners included Richard Gasquet, Andy Murray, Janko Tipsarevic, Arnaud Clement, Marin Cilic, and Rainer Schuettler.
In a five-set marathon that ended in near darkness at 9:30 p.m., Mikhail Youzhny outlasted Radek Stepanek, 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3.