Other Sports

Williams wins in return to Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON, England — Back on one of tennis' top stages, Venus Williams cut a familiar figure Monday at Wimbledon, from her latest original, somewhat-see-through outfit to her trademark booming serves and aggressive groundstrokes.

Williams smacked seven aces at up to 118 mph, totaled 23 winners to only five unforced errors, and overwhelmed 97th-ranked Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan 6-3, 6-1 in the first round at the All England Club.

The seven-time major champion recently was off the tour for about five months with a bum hip, including missing the French Open, and this is only her fourth tournament in nearly a year.

"It's a good place to start. And this is kind of like a home for her. She loves it," said Williams' hitting partner, David Witt. "She feels confident out here, and in women's tennis, 'confident' goes a long way."

There sure was nothing shy about a playsuit Williams called "trendy": white and sleeveless, with a deep "V" neckline, a triangle cut out in the back, a gold belt and gold zipper.

"Jumpers are very 'now,'" she explained, "as is lace."

Williams' outfit — and, of course, superb play, which betrayed no lingering effects from her injury — generated the most buzz on Day 1 in the 125th edition of the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.

"I do realize I don't have as many matches," said Williams, only 5-2 this season and only 9-3 since last July. "So, yeah, for sure, I know I need to kind of come out firing. Been pretty good at that in the past — and today."

Others reaching the second round included 10-time major champion Rafael Nadal, whose parents sat in the Royal Box during his 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory over 90th-ranked Michael Russell of Houston; No. 4 Andy Murray, and No. 10 Mardy Fish.

It was Nadal's first chance to play the tournament's opening match on Centre Court, an honor given to the defending men's champion, and something he called a "big emotion." Bad knees forced Nadal to withdraw in 2009, a year after he won Wimbledon for the first time.

He was more blase about his parents' special seats, saying: "It doesn't make any difference to me whether I see them in my (guest) box or in the Royal Box. But I think it was a beautiful experience for them."

Nadal now faces another American, 69th-ranked Ryan Sweeting of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., who dropped the first two sets against Pablo Andujar of Spain before coming all the way back to win 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-1.

It'll be Sweeting's third match against Nadal this year. Nadal won the others in straight sets, including at the Australian Open.

"They keep putting me up in the top half of the draw. I don't know what the deal is," Sweeting said. "What can I say? He's obviously one of the toughest opponents to play on any surface."

The second question at Nadal's news conference concerned whether he believes Murray, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic is likeliest to thwart his title hopes.

"My biggest opponent is Sweeting now. I am focused on my part of the draw. I'm focused on myself. To play against Andy or Djokovic or Federer only can be in the final; against Andy in the semifinals," the Spaniard replied. "So let's talk about today. Let's talk about tomorrow.... Let's (not) talk about... 10 days or 12 days (from now), because I don't know if I am here or I am fishing in Mallorca."

Four seeded players exited Monday, including No. 28 Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, who was beaten 2-6, 6-1, 8-6 by 19-year-old Christina McHale of Englewood Cliffs, N.J. McHale entered the day 1-6 in Grand Slam matches. No. 17 Kaia Kanepi lost to Sara Errani 6-1, 6-4, No. 22 Shahar Peer was eliminated 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 by Ksenia Pervak, and No. 30 Thomaz Bellucci was sent home in straight sets by 35-year-old Rainer Schuettler, the oldest man in the field.

  Comments