Serena Williams advances
LONDON -- Back in her comfort zone on Centre Court, Serena Williams delivered an overpowering statement: When her serve is steaming, she's the woman to beat at Wimbledon.
Putting aside her recent comments that led to a couple of apologies and a brief spat with Maria Sharapova, Williams looked every bit the five-time champion. She began her Wimbledon title defense with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Mandy Minella of Luxembourg.
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"For me, it's the greatest moment for a tennis player, to walk out on Centre Court," Williams said after her first match at Wimbledon since winning the Olympic gold medal there last year. "That was such a great moment, too. So many great memories on this court."
This was a chance for Williams to put the focus back on tennis following the verbal jousting with Sharapova over their private lives -- and comments about an Ohio rape case for which she had to apologize -- and she took full advantage.
As usual on grass, the top-ranked Williams dominated with her hard serve, winning the first set without dropping a point on her service game. Her main weapon let her down only at the start of the second set, when Minella took a 2-0 lead after Williams double-faulted on break point.
She was one point from going down 3-0 but then won 15 of the next 18 points to take a 4-2 lead, and broke again to wrap up the victory.
"I feel like I was a little rusty for some reason today," Williams said. "I don't feel like I played my best. I felt really upset when I lost my serve in the second set. With that being said, I think Mandy played really well."
Minella called her opponent "pretty much unbeatable."
"She's playing better than ever. ... Every time she steps on court, you can see why," she said.
Dealing with serves that came in at up to 121 mph (195 kph) -- that readout on the speed clock prompted murmuring among impressed spectators -- Minella managed to put only half of her returns in play.
"When I stood right in front of her, I looked at her and not at the ball at the beginning. Because it's just unreal; because I've never played against this type of player. It's a lot of stuff you have to deal with," Minella said.
"The strength and the heavy spin of her serve is definitely better than anyone else, I would say," Minella added. "It is different from what I've seen. But it's also because it's too good. ... Many other players wouldn't reach the ball today."
Much of the pre-tournament talk was about Williams and Sharapova, the two top players in the game who are on opposite sides of the draw and can't meet before the final.
"It hasn't been a distraction. Like I said, I'm just here to focus on the tennis," Williams said. "I'm just here to play Wimbledon. It's the premier tournament in the world, of the year, so that's what's most important. ... We're playing on opposite days, so we don't really see each other."
Williams improved her career record to 68-8 at the All England Club and extended her career-best winning streak to 32 matches, which included her second French Open title.
Serena Williams, who converted 85 percent of her first serves into points Tuesday in improving to 75-3 since 2012, needs three more wins to match sister Venus for most consecutive WTA match wins since 2000.
|-- Source: ESPN Stats & Info|
"I don't think about it," Williams said, referring to her streak. "Every single time I step out on the court it's a new match."
The 19-year-old Robson followed in the footsteps of Sam Smith, who upset No. 7 Conchita Martinez in 1998.
After wrapping up the match with a forehand winner, Robson said "it was nerve-wracking before I served for it. I just wanted to focus and take it point by point. Any big win gives you a lot of confidence."
Her victory created a huge buzz on social networks, with even Britain's Prime minister David Cameron taking to Twitter to comment on Robson's win, her third over a top-10 player in Grand Slam.
"Great to hear @LauraRobson5 beat the number 10 seed Maria Kirilenko at #Wimbledon," Cameron wrote.
Amid stinging criticism from the local media, Robson jumped to the defense of her fellow players when asked what was wrong with women's tennis in Britain.
"Nothing," she said. "I think everyone had tough matches. Before this week, everyone was playing really well. So it's unfortunate that no one else made the second round. But that happens sometimes. Last year I lost in the first round. So, you go through stages of ups and downs like everyone else."
Robson said she'll try not to get carried away, but that she believes in her chances to make a deep run in the tournament.
"I think I go out against the top players with nothing to lose, and I've always been like that," she said.
Kimiko Date-Krumm, the 42-year-old Japanese veteran, had an even easier time getting past an opponent. She needed just 44 minutes to complete a romp over Carina Witthoeft, an 18-year-old German less than half her age and making her Grand Slam debut.
Date-Krumm is the second-oldest player to win a match at Wimbledon after Martina Navratilova, who was 47 when she reached the second round in 2004.
Last year's runner-up, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, won 6-1, 6-1 over Yvonne Meusburger of Austria while No. 6 Li Na of China and No. 7 Angelique Kerber of Germany also advanced in straight sets, eliminating Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the U.S.
In less of a surprise that Date-Krumm's win, Arantxa Rus lost -- again. The 156th-ranked Dutch player equaled a WTA record by extending her losing streak to 17 straight matches with a 6-4, 6-2 defeat to Russia's Olga Puchkova.
"This year is not a good year for me," Rus said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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