June 22, 2010

Serena sails in 1st round opener

The defending champion won her opening match Tuesday, relying on an overpowering serve to beat 17-year-old Michelle Larcher De Brito of Portugal 6-0, 6-4. Her first set at the All England Club lasted just 21 minutes, and it was equally striking, ruthless and lopsided. Williams has never lost in the first round of a Grand Slam and has only once fallen in the second round, in 1998.

Williams won all 27 points on her first serve and hit 15 aces, the last on her final shot. Her winners to unforced errors ratio was 47/15. She also won 9 of 12 net approaches. As the crowd applauded her victory, Williams curtsied, mindful Queen Elizabeth II is expected to visit Wimbledon for the first time since 1977 on Thursday.

"I want it to be more natural," she said. "Right now it feels really forced. Seems like I've never done a curtsy before, which may be true. But I'm looking forward to nailing it." Williams played first on Center Court and remained unbeaten in opening Grand Slam matches. She's 43-0 in the first round at major events. For her return to Wimbledon on a warm, sunny afternoon, the three-time champion wore a cream dress with red trim. "Strawberries and cream," she said.

Larcher De Brito, ranked 148th, has three wins over top-20 players but was overwhelmed at the start, needing 33 minutes to win a game. There were some vigorous rallies down the stretch, with Larcher De Brito holding her own as both players scrambled along the baseline. "She definitely packs a punch," Williams said. "It was good for me because most people that do play nowadays hit really hard. It was good to get someone that hit really hard early on."

Williams packed the bigger punch -- she finished with 47 winners to six for Larcher De Brito, many on serves that reached up to 119 mph. "It's not even about the pace, because I could deal with that," Larcher De Brito said. "But she places it so well. When she aims for targets, she really hits that line or just clips that line."

In the final game, Williams hit a service winner and three aces to close out the victory. She said poor serving cost her when she was upset by Stosur in the quarterfinals at the French Open. "I served so terrible my last match at the French," Williams said. "I went home and worked really hard on my serve. I was incredibly disappointed with it. Had a talk with my serve. I said, 'You know, we got to do a little bit better.' "

Williams reached double figures in aces for the eighth time this year, most on the women's tour. She has won 58 of her past 59 matches against players ranked outside the top 100.

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