Serena makes emotional return

Defending champ fights past Aravane Rezai in first round; Federer through to round two

Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Caroline Wozniacki made short work of their opponents in first-round matches but the emotional Williams had more of a battle as she captivated the crowd in blustery conditions on Centre Court.

After crunching down an ace to earn a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over the tenacious Frenchwoman, defending champion Williams covered her face and wept before walking off to generous applause from a crowd delighted to see her back on the hallowed turf.


“I never dreamt I would be here right now,” said the 29-year-old American, who only returned to action last week in Eastbourne after 49 weeks out with a foot injury and a pulmonary embolism that left her on her death bed.

“I just wanted to win just one match here seeing as I’m not playing doubles, it was just a really big win for me.

“It’s been so hard and a disaster year for me, but I’ve been praying and I have my family here and I just love tennis,” added 13-time Grand Slam champion, who along with older sister Venus has reigned supreme at the All England Club for most of the last decade.

Andy Roddick, another American who has become a favourite son in this leafy suburb of London courtesy of his three final defeats by Federer, also progressed to the second round.

The 28-year-old, playing in his 11th Wimbledon, beat German qualifier Andreas Beck 6-4, 7-6, 6-3 on Court One to maintain his record of always reaching the second round.  His nemesis Federer battled the wind and the awkward serve of Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin to prevail 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 on Centre Court with his usual slew of breathtaking shots helping the fans forget the bracing chill. Serbian second seed Djokovic, whose 43-match winning run was ended by Federer in the French Open semifinals, began his quest for a first Wimbledon title with a rapid 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 hammering of Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, crushed Italy’s Flavio Cipolla 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 and reliable Spaniard David Ferrer beat Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
On the day that Nicolas Mahut and John Isner meet in a sequel to last year’s freakish 11-hour battle of survival, it was the fit-again Williams who was centre of attention.

Almost a year after beating Vera Zvonareva to win her fourth singles title on the lush green lawns, Williams returned to her favourite stage having played just two competitive matches in the 11 months since her huge health scares.

If she had hoped for a sedate opener, however, she was sadly mistaken. With an alarm wailing in the stands and spots of rain falling from the cloudy skies, the first game lasted nine minutes in which time Williams was foot-faulted twice, made rudimentary errors and even had trouble with her hair band.

To make matters worse, Rezai came out swinging from the hip and looked in the mood to cause a shock. Williams, who had never lost a Grand Slam first round match in the 43 she has contested, slipped 2-0 behind but soon found her swagger and reeled off the next five games. Rezai hit back to level after breaking in the sixth game of the second set before Williams regained control and swept through the decider in 25 minutes.

Top seed Wozniacki had no trouble in disposing of Spain’s Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-2, 6-1 and the two surprise women’s semifinalists from last year also eased through. Former world number one Jelena Jankovic became the highest women’s seed to fall when she crashed 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 to Spain’s Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Results (I round, prefix denotes seeding)

Men’s singles: 2-Novak Djokovic (Srb) bt Jeremy Chardy (Fra) 6-4, 6-1, 6-1; 28-David Nalbandian (Arg) bt Julian Reister (Ger) 7-5, 6-2, 6-3; 7-David Ferrer (Esp) bt Benoit Paire (Fra) 6-4, 6-4, 6-4; 32-Marcos Baghdatis (Cyp) bt James Blake (US) 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 4-6, 6-4; 18-Mikhail Youzhny (Rus) bt Juan Monaco (Arg) 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4; 20-Florian Mayer (Ger) bt Daniel Evans (GBR) 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-1), 3-6, 6-4; 13-Viktor Troicki (Srb) bt Maximo Gonzalez (Arg) 3-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3; 3-Roger Federer (Sui) bt Mikhail Kukushkin (Kaz) 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6-2; Xavier Malisse (Bel) bt Mischa Zverev (Ger) 6-2, 6-3, 6-2; Lukasz Kubot (Pol) bt Arnaud Clement (Fra) 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 6-4; Bernard Tomic (Aus) bt 29-Nikolay Davydenko (Rus) 7-5, 6-3, 7-5; 21-Fernando Verdasco (Esp) bt Radek Stepanek (Cze) 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6), 9-7; Lu Yen-hsun (Tai) bt Tommy Robredo (Esp) 6-4, 6-4, 6-1; Ivan Ljubicic (Cro) bt 27-Marin Cilic (Cro) 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4; 24-Juan Martin Del Potro (Arg) bt Flavio Cipolla (Ita) 6-1, 6-4, 6-3; 8-Andy Roddick (US) bt Andreas Beck (Ger) 6-4, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3; Tobias Kamke (Ger) bt Blaz Kavcic (Slv) 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 6-1; Ivo Karlovic (Cro) bt 23-Janko Tipsarevic (Srb) 7-5, 3-1 (retd); 25-Juan Ignacio Chela (Arg) bt Marinko Matosevic (Aus) 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-2; 15-Gilles Simon (Fra) bt Edouard Roger-Vasselin (Fra) 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3); Robin Haase (Ned) bt Pere Riba (Esp) 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Women’s singles: 20-Peng Shuai (Chn) bt Kirsten Flipkens (Bel) 6-0, 6-4; Melinda Czink (Hun) bt 10-Samantha Stosur (Aus) 6-3, 6-4; Iveta Benesova (Cze) bt Sandra Zahlavova (Cze) 3-6, 6-3, 7-6; 4-Victoria Azarenka (Bel) bt Magdalena Rybarikova (Slo) 6-4, 3-2 retired; Elena Baltacha (Bri) bt Mona Barthel (Ger) 6-2, 6-4; 1-Caroline Wozniacki (Den) bt Arantxa Parra Santonja (Spa) 6-2, 6-1; 25-Daniela Hantuchova (Slo) bt Vitalia Diatchenko (Rus) 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3; 7-Serena Williams (US) bt Aravane Rezai (Fra) 6-3, 3-6, 6-1; Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (Esp) bt 15-Jelena Jankovic (Srb) 5-7, 6-4, 6-3; Virginie Razzano (Fra) bt Sania Mirza (Ind) 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-3; 14-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Rus) bt Lesia Tsurenko (Ukr) 6-4, 7-6 (7-3); Tamira Paszek (Aut) bt Ayumi Morita (Jpn) 5-7, 6-3, 6-0; Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (Cze) bt Aleksandra Wozniak (Can) 7-6 (9-7), 6-4; 11-Andrea Petkovic (Ger) bt Stephanie Foretz Gacon (Fra) 6-3, 6-4; Anne Keothavong (Bri) bt Naomi Broady (Bri) 6-2, 6-4; Rebecca Marino (Can) bt Patricia Mayr-Achleitner (Aut) 6-3, 7-6 (7-5); 29-Roberta Vinci (Ita) bt Vera Dushevina (Rus) 7-5, 6-2; Nadia Petrova (Rus) bt Vesna Dolonts (Rus) 6-3, 6-4; Marina Erakovic (NZ) bt Chang Kai-chen (Tai) 6-4, 6-2; Simona Halep (Rom) bt Bojana Jovanovski (Ser) 6-1, 6-2; Stephanie Dubois (Can) bt Irina Falconi (US) 6-2, 6-2; 8-Petra Kvitova (Cze) bt Alexa Glatch (US) 6-2, 6-2; 32-Tsvetana Pironkova (Bul) bt Camila Giorgi (Ita) 6-2, 6-1.

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