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’ photoshoot, 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, neither of whom possess nearly the top-level experience of Williams, 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 yesterday.
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.
Eighth seed and two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka has reached two Wimbledon semi-finals but has not yet gone further.
She was troubled in the second set of her first-round match by veteran Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, but pulled through 6-3, 7-5.
“I don’t remember last year much. It’s been so long ago,” Azarenka said. “It was great today. To step for the first time on the court with the fresh grass, with those lines just lined, it was beautiful.”
Chinese second seed Li was a 7-5, 6-2 victor against Poland’s Paula Kania but does not fancy her chances of adding to the grand slam titles she has claimed in Australia and France.
“I never think I can play well in the grass court,” Li said.
Australia’s former US Open champion Samantha Stosur, seeded 17th, was beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer to become the first big-name casualty.
Sloane Stephens, the 21-year-old American, was a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon in 2013 but made a first-day exit this time, folding to Maria Kirilenko, the Russian who reached the last eight two years ago, prevailing.