/ Tennis

Serena Williams battles her way into second round at Wimbledon

Updated: Tuesday, 26 Jun 2012 23:20 | Comments

Serena Williams hits a backhand return on Court Two at SW19 Francesca Schiavone survived break point in the second set
Serena Williams hits a backhand return on Court Two at SW19 Francesca Schiavone survived break point in the second set

Four-times champion Serena Williams made an excellent start to Wimbledon, coming through an athletic first-round match against Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova that was tougher than the 6-2 6-4 scoreline would suggest.

The Czech, ranked 62nd in the world, was a dogged, determined opponent for the sixth seed on Court Two, chasing down every ball.

However, she found Serena's powerful first serve tough to handle, staggering backwards like a punch-drunk boxer when the ball thundered towards her.

Williams served for the match at 5-3 but Zahlavova Strycova broke her in a long ninth game, after forcing the American to slide across the grass to save two of three breakpoints.

Williams, who last won here two years ago, broke straight back, taking the victory on her second matchpoint and letting out a scream of joy when the Czech put a forehand long.

Serena, whose older sister Venus lost in the first round on Monday, will face Hungarian qualifier Melinda Czink in the second round.

She may hope to be on a bigger court next time, having wondered aloud at previous Wimbledon tournaments why she was so often scheduled to be on the smaller Court Two.

Asked about that complaint today, Williams was reluctant to reply.

"I just can't talk about that right now, I'm not in the mood," she told a news conference.

She was more forthcoming when asked what she had learnt from her shock first-round defeat at the French Open last month.

"I learnt that... you've got to keep going," she said. "I was playing excellent before Paris.

"I was really disappointed, obviously I was extremely disappointed. But," she added with a laugh, "as (singer) Kelly Clarkson says, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Williams said she was delighted to be have been confirmed on the US Olympic team and was looking forward to defending her doubles title with Venus.

"I love playing doubles with her normally but especially at the Olympics. It's a whole another level. I really enjoy the opportunity to play with her, so it is real cool."

Elsewhere, Francesca Schiavone came from one set down to break Laura Robson's heart in a thrilling first-round clash.

Robson is ranked 71 places below world number 26 Schiavone, but the 18-year-old Londoner made the 2010 French Open champion look ordinary in the first set by putting on a majestic display of powerful baseline tennis.

Despite needing treatment for what looked like a back injury, Schiavone regained her composure and survived break point in the second set before running out a 2-6 6-4 6-4 winner.

Robson earned a huge standing ovation when she left Court Two, and despite showing flashes of brilliance, the ambitious teenager will no doubt see this as a missed opportunity to claim a huge scalp against a woman who was once ranked fourth in the world.

Robson showed no sign of nerves early on as she clinched her first game to love, but 24th seed Schiavone then showed her experience by doing exactly the same.

Robson engineered a break point in the fourth game with a powerful forehand return and grabbed the opportunity, forcing Schiavone to net after a thrilling rally.

Nerves then appeared to get to Robson as the seventh went to 0-30 but she responded in style, firing down a 113mph ace to rescue the game and move 5-2 ahead.

It was Schiavone who was to suffer from nerves next, as she wasted a 40-15 lead when saving to stay in the set. The Italian was forced to deuce and a powerful return and a double fault gave the home favourite the set after 25 minutes.

The match came to a halt when Schiavone went off court for treatment on her injury.

After around 15 minutes, she reappeared. Robson was initially unfazed by the disruption, holding her serve before almost forcing another break in the second game.

Schiavone needed yet more treatment and afforded Robson three break points in the sixth game. To the frustration of the partisan crowd, she spurned all three chances, her last two shots going wide by millimetres.

Schiavone made Robson pay by breaking in the next game, the teenager sending a cross-court backhand just wide after a tense rally.

The 32-year-old Italian was using every trick in the book to put her opponent out of her stride, grunting, shouting, challenging calls and taking her towel when Robson was ready to serve.

She held easily to take the second set and Robson crumbled in the opening game of the third, weakly netting on Schiavone's second break point.

The dogged determination Robson had displayed in the first set had disappeared and she double-faulted twice in a row to hand Schiavone her second break in the third.

Robson saved two match points and then stunned her opponent by breaking, but Schiavone already had the break she needed and she nervously served out for victory.

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use
Live!