Wimbledon: Williams has serve sizzling during first-round blowout

By Associated Press  • 
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Sang Tan | Associated Press
Serena Williams said she was “a little rusty” against Mandy Minella of Luxembourg, but she played well enough to win 6-1, 6-3.

LONDON — Back in her comfort zone on Centre Court, Serena Williams delivered an overpowering statement: When her serve is steaming, she’s the woman to beat at Wimbledon.

Putting aside her recent comments that led to a couple of apologies and a brief spat with Maria Sharapova, Williams looked every bit the five-time champion. She began her Wimbledon title defense with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Mandy Minella of Luxembourg yesterday.

“For me, it’s the greatest moment for a tennis player, to walk out on Centre Court,” Williams said after her first match at Wimbledon since winning the Olympic gold medal there last year. “That was such a great moment, too. So many great memories on this court.”

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic also opened with a straight-sets victory, beating Florian Mayer of Germany 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Mayer is a two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist, having lost to Djokovic at that stage last year. But Djokovic was never in danger of springing another stunner in the wake of Rafael Nadal’s first-round exit a day earlier.

Djokovic took a 3-0 lead in the first set and broke for a 6-5 lead in the second to take control. He served out the match to love before saluting the crowd with a fist pump.

“It was a big pleasure again performing here on Centre Court in front of the packed crowd,” Djokovic said. “For the first round, it was tricky. … I think (Mayer’s) game is really well suited for grass, so it took a lot of effort.”

For Williams, this was a chance to put the focus back on tennis after the verbal jousting with Sharapova over their private lives — and Williams’ comments about a Steubenville, Ohio, rape case for which she had to apologize — and she took full advantage.

As usual on grass, the top-ranked Williams dominated with her hard serve, winning the first set without dropping a point on her service game. Her main weapon let her down only at the start of the second set, when Minella took a 2-0 lead after Williams double-faulted on break point.

She was one point from going down 3-0 but then won 15 of the next 18 points to take a 4-2 lead, and broke again to wrap up the victory.

“I feel like I was a little rusty for some reason today,” Williams said. “I don’t feel like I played my best. I felt really upset when I lost my serve in the second set. With that being said, I think Mandy played really well.”

Much of the pre-tournament talk was about Williams and Sharapova, the two top players in the game who are on opposite sides of the draw and can’t meet before the final.

“It hasn’t been a distraction,” Williams said. “I’m just here to play Wimbledon. It’s the premier tournament in the world, of the year, so that’s what’s most important.”

Kimiko Date-Krumm, the 42-year-old Japanese veteran, had an even easier time. She needed just 44 minutes to complete a romp over Carina Witthoeft, an 18-year-old German making her Grand Slam debut.

Date-Krumm is the second-oldest player to win a match at Wimbledon. Martina Navratilova was 47 when she reached the second round in 2004.

Nadal was knocked out in straight sets by 135th-ranked Steve Darcis of Belgium on Monday; it was the Spaniard’s first loss in the opening round of a Grand Slam event.

The only top player who had difficulty advancing yesterday was French Open runner-up David Ferrer. He overcame a second-set slump to beat Martin Alund of Argentina 6-1, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

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