LONDON • Defending champion Serena Williams stuttered to a low-key and error-strewn 6-2, 6-4 first-round victory over Swiss qualifier Amra Sadikovic yesterday, as her mother watched from the front row of the Wimbledon Royal Box.
Looking ill at ease, as though her quest for an elusive 22nd Grand Slam singles title was weighing heavily on her shoulders, the American struggled with her serve and sprayed balls wide on both sides of the court. She served three double faults in the fifth game of the first set.
It was Williams' first match since she lost the French Open final to Garbine Muguruza earlier this month and she should have had few problems against the Macedonian-born Sadikovic, ranked 148th in the world and with little main tour experience.
Taking turns to urge herself on and tell herself off, Williams eventually secured match point when her opponent just missed a lob. She sealed victory after challenging a wrong call when her shot landed on the far baseline.
"My mom was up there in the Royal Box, so that was nice," said the American after giving her mother Oracene Price an afternoon to remember on Centre Court.
"I will have to get my dad out here now.
Men's singles 1st rd (selected)
Andy Murray (Gbr) bt Liam Broady (Gbr) 6-2 6-3 6-4, Stanislas Wawrinka (Sui) bt Taylor Fritz (USA) 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 6-7 (2-7) 6-4, Juan Martin del Potro (Arg) bt Stephane Robert (Fra) 6-1 7-5 6-0, Nick Kyrgios (Aus) bt Radek Stepanek (Cze) 6-4 6-3 6-7 (9-11) 6-1, Richard Gasquet (Fra) bt Aljaz Bedene (Gbr) 6-3 6-4 6-3, Dustin Brown (Ger) bt Dusan Lajovic (Srb) 4-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) bt Inigo Cervantes (Esp) 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 6-4, Lu Yen-hsun (Tpe) bt Alexander Kudryavtsev (Rus) 6-4 6-1 6-4.
Women's singles 1st rd (selected)
Roberta Vinci (Ita) bt Alison Riske (USA) 6-2 5-7 6-3, Elena Vesnina (Rus) bt Tamira Paszek (Aut) 7-5 6-2, Serena Williams (USA) bt Amra Sadikovic (Sui) 6-2 6-4, Duan Yingying (Chn) bt Kristyna Pliskova (Cze) 6-3 3-6 7-5, Christina McHale (USA) bt Daniela Hantuchova (Svk) 7-5 6-2.
"I never underestimate any opponent. I always expect the best of myself," added Williams, who won 12 straight points at the start of the match to open a 3-0 lead.
However, not everyone gave her the royal seal of approval.
"It was one of the worst serving efforts I've seen from Serena. This is what is giving other players hope," said John McEnroe, US legend and coach of Milos Raonic, commentating for the BBC.
Williams next faces fellow American Christina McHale for a place in the last 32.
Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios was back in trouble on his return to Wimbledon, as the Australian rowed with umpire Mohamed Lahyani and told his entourage to get out during a stormy 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (9-11), 6-1 win over Czech veteran Radek Stepanek.
Kyrgios has earned a reputation as one of the most volatile players on the men's Tour after a series of distasteful antics, including briefly appearing to stop trying during his Wimbledon defeat by Richard Gasquet last year.
The temperamental 21-year-old, who was hit with a US$2,000 (S$2,700) fine for swearing during the same last-16 clash with Gasquet, lost his cool yet again on his first return to the All England Club since that meltdown 12 months ago.
He was warned for bad language by Lahyani following an audible rant that included telling his support team to stop watching him after he lost the third set.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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