Serena in tears, Federer, Djokovic in flying starts

Defending champion Serena Williams broke down in tears as she made an emotional Wimbledon return on Tuesday while Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic barely broke sweat.

Four-time winner Williams, watched by United States pop superstar Diana Ross and England’s Ashes-winning cricketers in the Royal Box, battled past Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in what was only her third match in 11 months.

“I usually don’t cry. It’s been so hard, I never dreamt I’d be here,” said Williams.

The great American was sidelined for 11 months after her 2010 Wimbledon triumph.

She suffered a foot injury caused by stepping on broken glass at a German restaurant before needing emergency surgery to remove blood clots on her lungs, an incident Williams described as being on her death bed.

“I just wanted to win at least one match here and since I’m not playing doubles it was a really big win for me. It’s been so hard and has been a disaster year.

“To be able to come back at Wimbledon is pretty awesome, I didn’t expect to play or do anything,” added seventh-seed Williams, who next tackles Romania’s Simona Halep.

Six-time men’s champion Federer, chasing Pete Sampras’s record of seven titles, cruised to a 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-2 win over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.

Third-seeded Federer, who next faces France’s Adrian Mannarino, suffered a shock quarter-final exit against Tomas Berdych last year, but never looked in trouble against tournament debutant Kuskushkin.

The Swiss star fired down 12 aces and unleashed 53 winners in his quickfire Centre Court win.

“It was very windy and the conditions were tough,” said Federer, the holder of a record 16 Grand Slam titles.

“It’s always nerve-wracking playing your first match on Centre Court because you don’t get the chance to practice at the start of the tournament.
But it was a matter of playing solid.”

Second seed Djokovic, playing for the first time since Federer ended his 43-match winning run in the French Open semi-finals, was equally untroubled needing just 80 minutes to defeat France’s Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.

Three-time finalist Andy Roddick eased into the second round with a 6-4, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 over German qualifier Andreas Beck, while former US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro beat Flavio Cipolla 6-1, 6-4, 6-3.

Spanish seventh seed David Ferrer also went through as did highly-rated Australian Bernard Tomic who put out Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets.

Later on Tuesday, John Isner of the US was facing Nicolas Mahut of France in a rematch of their epic clash last year which lasted over 11 hours and was the longest tennis match in history.

Women’s world number one Caroline Wozniacki raced into the second round as she routed Spain’s Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-2, 6-1, taking just 59 minutes to demolish the world number 105.

“It was my first match on grass and the wind was blowing everywhere. The conditions were pretty tough,” Wozniacki said.

Australian 10th seed Samantha Stosur, last year’s French Open runner-up, crashed out, losing 6-3, 6-4 to Hungary’s Melinda Czink.

Former world number one Jelena Jankovic, the 15th seed, went out to Spanish left-hander Maria Jose Martinez 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Fourth seeded Belarusian Victoria Azarenka went through when Magdelana Rybarikova of Slovakia retired with a knee injury in the second set.

Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova, a semi-finalist in 2010, stormed past American qualifier Alexa Glatch 6-2, 6-2.

Meanwhile, French Open winner Li Na of China was to tackle Russia’s Alla Kudryavtseva, with 2004 champion Maria Sharapova, seeded fifth this year, up against fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze.—AFP

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