LONDON • Venus Williams was able to focus on Wimbledon despite her involvement in a recent fatal car crash as the five-time champion beat Elise Mertens 7-6 (9-7), 6-4 in the first round yesterday.
The American tennis player is being sued by the estate of an elderly Florida man who died last month after his vehicle was hit by a car driven by Williams.
The 37-year-old is accused of running a red light, inattentive driving and negligent operation of a vehicle, leaving Jerome Barson with a fractured spine and numerous internal injuries before his death several weeks later.
Williams, who owns a home near the crash site, last week said she was "heartbroken" over the tragic incident. The world No. 11 became distressed in her post-match press conference upon being asked if she had anything to say on the matter.
"I've learnt that I have no idea what tomorrow will bring," she said, her voice quivering. "There are really no words to describe how devastating... I'm just completely speechless."
At this point, as she wiped tears from her eyes, a press official interrupted to point out that the player was not allowed to address the matter, due to the impending lawsuit.
On court, however, she was far more composed as she advanced to the second round, where she will face China's Wang Qiang.
She won the first three games on Court One, before Belgian Mertens hit back to force a tie-break. The American had four set points saved before she finally edged in front.
Recovering from 0-2 down in the second set, Williams was on the brink of victory with a 5-3 lead when rain forced the players off court, but sealed the win after the resumption on her fifth match point.
Earlier, Australian 20th seed Nick Kyrgios, who retired injured, said that he knew he was struggling with a hip injury even as he came out on court but he wanted to give his favourite tournament a shot.
The 22-year-old called for the physio and packed up after losing the first two sets to Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-3, 6-4, having hardly run for any of the Frenchman's peppering of drop shots, lobs and passing shots.
He said: "I spoke to the doctor before the tournament started. He was leaning towards me not even playing... I do well here every year."
Top seed Andy Murray opened Centre Court action in style by moving into the second round with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over Alexander Bublik, who was in the first round as a lucky loser from qualifying.
French Open champion Rafael Nadal also advanced after beating Australia's John Millman 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN
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