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Venus, Nadal win openers

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Associated Press
June 21, 2011
— 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.”


Not as sensational as the corset-like black lace number with skin-toned undergarments that drew so much attention at the 2010 French Open, but Monday’s romper looked something akin to a toga and surely would have won the approval of her Roman goddess namesake.


“She always has something interesting,” said the 6-foot-3 Amanmuradova, a rare opponent taller than the 6-1 Williams. “It’s good to have something different on the tour. I wear shorts, and everybody is criticizing that I look like a guy. ... If she feels comfortable, perfect. Personally, I wouldn’t wear this, because it’s not going to look good on me. But if it’s white, you can play. That’s the rule. If everybody wears the same, it’s boring.”


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.


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 also advanced.


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. Bad knees forced Nadal to withdraw in 2009, a year after he won Wimbledon for the first time.


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.


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. 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.


Otherwise, the most significant development probably was the rain that began falling at about 5 p.m., resulting in the suspension of 14 matches in progress and the postponement of 17 others.


And today’s forecast calls for more rain.


Two matches were played under the retractable roof, which was added to Centre Court before the 2009 tournament. That included two-time Wimbledon semifinalist Murray’s 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-0 victory over 59th-ranked Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain.


Williams, once ranked No. 1, dropped to 33rd this month. She’s at No. 30 this week, but was seeded 23rd as a nod to her five Wimbledon titles and a career record at the All England Club that’s now 69-9.


“I’m smarter, if anything, than five years ago,” said Williams, who turned 31 Friday. “More and more players are starting to realize that it’s an advantage to be able to play longer, because then you actually understand the game.”


If that’s so, her second-round opponent understands things even better than Williams does. That’s because Kimiko Date-Krumm is 40; her 6-0, 7-5 defeat over British wild-card entry Katie O’Brien was her first victory at Wimbledon since reaching the 1996 semifinals.



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