Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Venus working one of her Eleven designs on Day 1 of 2011 Wimbledon Championships
Venus Williams may have only played two tournaments this year but she was quickly into her stride in her bid for a sixth Wimbledon title, producing astonishing tennis to see off Akgul Amanmuradova 6-3, 6-1.
Williams, who turned 31 on Friday, took exactly an hour to sweep aside the unseeded Uzbek, who simply had no answer for the American's powerful baseline game. Apart from Eastbourne last week, Williams had not played a tournament since the Australian Open at the start of the year. There she was forced to retire in the third round with a right hip injury against Andrea Petkovic.
The lack of action had led her to tumble down the rankings and arrive at Wimbledon as the 23rd seed, an unusual position for one of the two sisters who have dominated the Championships over the past decade and more.
But despite that less than perfect preparation, Williams remains among the favourites for the ladies' singles crown and, as she opened the tournament on No.2 Court, it was clear to see the American was enjoying every moment of being back in the Wimbledon limelight. Her opening service game to love was perhaps an early indicator of the way the match would pan out and she could not help but smile as she quickly found her feet on the lawn she loves so much.
As usual there was equal interest in what one of the sport's enduring superstars was wearing and Venus - always with one eye on entertaining the fashionistas in the Wimbledon crowd - did not disappoint, with a rather unique, chic chiffon playsuit.
The outfit's delicate appearance was the polar opposite of her game as she employed her trademark aggressive play, drilling winners down the line and cross court. Serves were hammered down at 117mph. There was certainly no sign of the abdominal injury that forced Williams sister to miss 2011 Roland Garros - the first major she had been absent from since the 2007 Australian Open.
Williams reached the quarter-finals of Eastbourne last week, where she lost to Daniela Hantuchova and that timely run of grass court matches had clearly helped her on her way to the sparkling tennis she can so readily produce once she strides on to the lawns of the All England Club.
Williams brushed aside her opponent - ranked 97 in the world - with ease and the spectacular serving she employed at the start of the set continued throughout the match. By the ninth game, two aces and another 117mph serve helped her pocket the first set in 35 minutes.
This form continued in the second and while her opponent had been working hard to stay in the rallies early on, her game slowly began to fall apart. Williams made only five unforced errors throughout the entire match, hit 23 winners and fired down seven aces.
But is it possible for a competitor to win the tournament despite deing seeded as low as 23rd? Williams should know: she arrived at the 2007 Championships with the same seeding after another injury-affected year and finished as the champion. For some true competitors, it's not where you start that matters, it's where you finish.
© AELTC/ S.Wake