Archive for Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Venus works for opening victory

Defending champ Williams among Wimbledon winners

Defending champion Venus Williams returns a shot Tuesday during first-round action at Wimbledon.

Defending champion Venus Williams returns a shot Tuesday during first-round action at Wimbledon.

June 25, 2008

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— Defending champion Venus Williams scraped through a tight first set and then pulled away for a 7-6 (5), 6-1 victory over British teenager Naomi Cavaday to begin her bid for a fifth Wimbledon title.

As reigning champion, Williams was up first on "Ladies Day" on Centre Court Tuesday as the All England Club enjoyed a second spell of dry, sunny weather on a day that also featured wins by Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick and former champions Maria Sharapova and Lindsay Davenport. Fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko was the top name to go out.

It took awhile for the seventh-seeded Williams, playing her first grass-court match of the season, to find her game and take command against a 19-year-old wild card entry playing only her third career Grand Slam match.

"She played a great match," said Williams, who hit one serve at 125 mph (201 kph). "She put a lot of pace on the ball, forced a few errors by me. I felt confident throughout the match. I felt good out there. I always feel good on that court."

Williams' potential quarterfinal opponent, No. 2-seeded Jelena Jankovic, easily advanced by beating 113th-ranked Olga Savchuk of Ukraine, 6-3, 6-2, in a late match.

Men's No. 2 Nadal - coming off his fourth straight French Open championship and a win at Queen's for his first grass-court title - got off to a solid start on Centre Court. Runner-up to Roger Federer the past two years, the 22-year-old Spaniard beat 122nd-ranked German qualifier Andreas Beck, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (0).

Nadal, who never faced a break point, managed to break Beck just twice out of nine chances. He saved his best for the tiebreaker, ripping a crosscourt forehand winner for 5-0, serving his 17th ace for 6-0 and forcing an error on match point with a backhand drop shot.

"The first match is always very difficult, but I played well in the last tiebreak," Nadal said. "I was a little bit nervous today. It was tough, but I have very nice memories from the last two years."

Two-time runner-up Roddick served 17 aces and never faced a break point as he downed Eduardo Schwank of Argentina 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (0). The sixth-seeded Roddick, who lost to Federer in the 2004 and '05 finals, had only nine unforced errors.

In the day's first major upset, fourth-seeded Davydenko was knocked out in the first round in straight sets by 116th-ranked German Benjamin Becker, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

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