Venus has 'nothing to lose'
A review of the rest of the ladies' singles action on the opening day of Wimbledon 2014.
- Related Content
Venus Williams ended her three-year wait for another Wimbledon victory and insisted she has "nothing to prove, nothing to hide, nothing to lose" in her pursuit of late-career grand slam glory.
The 34-year-old has also left almost nothing to the imagination in an ESPN Magazine 'Body Issue' photo shoot, it was announced this week, five years after sister Serena was its cover star.
And the message from Venus, who like Serena is a five-time former Wimbledon singles champion, is that she is playing by her own rules, ready to tackle any challenge that comes her way.
On a day that saw wins for fellow leading women Li Na and Victoria Azarenka, it was refreshing to see the American come through her opening test against Spanish clay-courter Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor.
A 6-4 4-6 6-2 victory on Court Two was her first since getting to the third round in 2011. A year later she lost in the first round to Russian Elena Vesnina, and last year a back injury kept her out of Wimbledon.
"You can't really play tennis if you can't really serve. It was in my best interest not to come here," Williams said on Monday.
Now though, Williams is as fit and healthy as she can be, while managing the auto-immune disorder Sjogren's syndrome that has been a hindrance in recent seasons.
A power game suited to fast grass made Williams the player to beat at Wimbledon, until her younger sister assumed that mantle, but she believes the surfaces on tour are now too standardised in the way they play.
"Unfortunately I think the courts are becoming so similar that it's not encouraging players to play different," Williams said.
"I try not to complain too much. No one's going to want to see me coming, 'There she goes again, she talks too much'. I try not to let that be me.
"I'm not really here to surprise anyone. No one is going to get behind you and pet you and say, 'It's okay, you can do it'. I have to do that for myself.
"I have nothing to prove, nothing to hide, nothing to lose. So for me it's about continually playing better and getting back up every single time when things might not go my way. It's not going to go the way of 127 people in this draw. It's going to go the way of one person."
Williams will next play Japan's Kurumi Nara, while a showdown with the 2011 winner Petra Kvitova is a possibility in the third round.
Kvitova cruised through, defeating Andrea Hlavackova for the loss of just three games.
The former champion cracked 29 winners past her fellow Czech opponent, better known for her doubles play, as she eased to a 6-3 6-0 victory.
Second seed Li the reigning Australian Open champion, was also a comfortable winner, defeating Polish qualifier Paula Kania 7-5 6-2 on Centre Court.
The Chinese star had a sticky moment when her opponent served for the first set but came through it. She dropped serve three times but was brutal on return, particularly in the second set.
However, afterwards Li played down her chances, saying: "I never think I can play well in the grass court."
Sloane Stephens and Sam Stosur were both early big-name casualties of the opening day.
Stephens lost 6-2 7-6 (8/6) to Maria Kirilenko, a former top-10 player on way her back from injury.
The American made the quarter-finals of last year's tournament before losing to eventual champion Marion Bartoli but she was out of sorts early on and despite saving five match points to force a tie-break in the second set she could now level affairs and bowed out, failing to make the last 16 of a Slam for the first time since the 2012 US Open.
Stephens, who has had a British hitting partner in Andrew Fitzpatrick over the past 12 months, said: "It feels like the end of the world now, but fortunately it's not. So that's a good thing.''
She suggested she was having problems behind the scenes, adding: "There's things that you guys don't know about, a lot of things that everyone else doesn't see, but you have to work through it and you have to deal with it. Sometimes you've got to be a big girl and just work through all the things that are troubling you.''
Meanwhile, Stosur, seeded one place higher than Stephens at 17th, was beaten 6-3 6-4 by Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer out on Court Three.
Former world number one Azarenka avoided such an upset but was pushed by Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in her opener.
Azarenka, who made her comeback from a foot injury in Eastbourne last week, had to fight back from a break down in the second set to prevail 6-3 7-5 against a player who made the semi-finals in SW19 15 years ago.
Elena Vesnina, the 32nd seed, was the first winner of the tournament, easing to a 6-0 6-4 win over Austrian Patricia Mayr-Achleitner.
Japanese 43-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm threatened an upset against an opponent 18 years her junior as she swept ahead against Russian 22nd seed Ekaterina Makarova.
However, from 5-0 ahead in the first set Date-Krumm's high standards began to fall and the veteran was beaten 3-6 6-4 7-5.