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22 Jun 2011 21:38
It was Venus’s turn to write the Williams plot line at Wimbledon on Wednesday as she survived a gripping three-set battle with 40-year-old Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm.
A day after her sister Serena sobbed after beating Aravane Rezai to open her title defence, 23rd seed Venus was made to sweat buckets under Centre Court’s closed roof for a 6-7 6-3 8-6 win in just under three hours.
Men’s champion Rafael Nadal needed considerably less time to reach the third round, swatting aside American upstart Ryan Sweeting 6-3 6-2 6-4.
After a lengthy rain delay, last year’s runner-up Tomas Berdych and British hope Andy Murray were also untroubled on Court One. Berdych crushed Julien Benneteau 6-1 6-4 6-2 and fourth seed Murray cruised past Tobias Kamke 6-3 6-3 7-5.
Nadal’s expected opponent in the third round, the big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, retired injured when leading 3-2 in the first set against Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller.
The 20-year-old slipped awkwardly and left the complex on crutches to have an MRI scan.
Once again, however, it was the name Williams that had tongues wagging at the rain-hit championships.
On Monday it was her tennis ouitfit, on Tuesday it was her emotional sister and this time it was for the 31-year-old’s spellbinding duel with a veteran who soaked up everything the American could throw at her.
With play delayed on all the other courts, Williams and Date-Krumm, who on Monday became the second oldest player to win a women’s singles match at Wimbledon, served up an early contender for match of the tournament.
“I thought she played unbelievable today,” Williams, who returned from a five-month injury layoff at Eastbourne last week, told reporters.
“I thought she had some luck on her side, too, with net cords, balls hitting lines.
I just thought today was a perfect storm for her to try to get a win.
“Thankfully I had some answers.”
Date-Krumm made her Wimbledon debut in 1989 when the Williams sisters were still bashing balls about on park courts in Compton and the idea of a roof over the most famous centre court in tennis was still a pipe dream.
You have to go back to 1996 for her best Wimbledon performance when she lost to Steffi Graf in the semi-finals before taking a 12-year break from tennis.
“She hits a ball that no one else hits.
Williams was certainly bemused as she lost her first three service games to trail 5-1. She fought back to force a tiebreak, went 6-1 down, recovered again to 6-6 but slipped behind as an inspired Date-Krumm grabbed the next two points.
Williams upped her game to level the match before moving 2-0 up in the decider. Date-Krumm began hitting the ball unerringly close to the lines, though, and worked her way back to 2-2.
At 6-6 former world number four Date-Krumm sniffed a break at 30-30 but Williams flashed a sublime backhand winner and finally sealed victory in the following game.
Play finally started elsewhere around the All England Club, with organisers desperately hoping to work through a backlog of matches.
Nadal clearly enjoyed his first experience of “indoor” grasscourt tennis to outclass Sweeting, although he would rather have the sun on his back.
“A new experience for me, a good experience.” he said. “But the tournament is outdoor, it’s not indoor. I prefer outdoors.”
Inside or out, the Spaniard has found his groove straight away at Wimbledon and the prospect of him playing even better next week would frighten even the most avid supporter of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Murray.
Women’s second seed Vera Zvonareva, runner-up to Serena Williams last year, moved into the third round after beating fellow Russian Elena Visnina 6-1 7-6 and she was joined by the wailing fourth seed Victoria Azarenka who crushed Iveta Benesova.
One women’s seed to fall was Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the self-confessed Lada Gaga of tennis. She walked on court wearing a jacket made of tennis balls but the 30th seeded American was bounced out in a belated first-round match by Japan’s Misaki Doi.—Reuters
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