World No. 1 Serena Williams took one of six steps she will need to make to win the first three Slams of the year on Monday at Wimbledon. Perhaps her toughest competition standing between her and a trophy-raising effort, former champ Maria Sharapova, was also an easy winner.
Williams topped quick-starting Russian qualifier Margarita Gasparyan 6-4, 6-1, while the No. 4-seeded Sharapova held off Brit wildcard Johanna Konta 6-2, 6-2.
“She played really well,” said Williams, down 1-3 in the first and facing a break point to go down 1-4. “She also had a few matches under her belt from the qualifying, so she was ready for the grass. She got off to a really fast start…She was just hitting a lot of winners.”
The efficient Sharapova had 23 winners to just 12 unforced errors, losing only four games.
“It was my first competitive match in about four weeks, so I just wanted to start off really strong, not knowing much about my opponent, just the results she had last week,” Sharapova said. “I just wanted to take care of business, and I thought I did a good job of that.”
Neither of the contenders were as dominant as No. 14 seed Andrea Petkovic and No. 16 Venus Williams, who both recorded double bagels. Petkovic rolled over American Shelby Rogers 6-0, 6-0, while Venus likewise clocked-out quickly against American Madison Brengle.
“She’s had really great results in the majors,” Venus said of Brengle. “Playing a higher-ranked player in the first round is a challenge, but everything worked out for me. I don’t think she played badly. I was just able to convert on the important points.”
Another American fared slightly better but with the same end result as Alison Riske served for the match against No. 6 seed Lucie Safarova before nerves took hold in a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 win for the Czech.
In remaining Top 10 play, No. 7 Ana Ivanovic pummelled China’s Xu Yifan 6-1, 6-1.
“I really felt early loss in Birmingham gave me time to work on some things,” the Serb said. “Even before Birmingham we decided that week we will work on things. We didn’t have time at the time then to have so much practice on grass, but now coming into this week, I feel like I implemented some things that we worked on, and that really makes me happy.”
Lower seeds in the victory column on Monday were No. 11 Karolina Pliskova who needed three sets to beat American Irina Falconi, No. 19 Sara Errani who beat Italian compatriot Francesca Schiavone 6-1 in the third, No. 22 Samantha Stosur, No. 23 Victoria Azarenka, No. 29 Irina Begu, and No. 30 Belinda Bencic who avoided a loss coming off of her first grasscourt title last week, beating Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova from a set down.
Three players moved into the second round with seeded upsets after Latvian Jelena Ostapenko mowed over No. 9 Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-0; Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas who outlasted No. 24 Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, and American Sloane Stephens who beat No. 27 Barbora Strycova 6-4, 6-2.
If Ostapenko’s name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the Suarez Navarro-killer lifted the Wimbledon girls’ junior trophy roughly this time last year.
“I was playing so good today,” she said. “I was playing aggressive, and trying to stay aggressive but be smart — don’t hit from the first shot like crazy. And when I could I finished the point…I mean yeah (I’m surprised) because she’s Top 10, she’s a really great player.”
Winners in all-unseeded matches of note were Daniela Hantuchova beating Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 6-0 in a battle of veterans; American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands topping French Open breakout player Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium 6-3, 6-2; and big-serving American CoCo Vandeweghe into the second round with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Slovak Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.
Highlights of players in action on Tuesday at the All England Club are defending champ Petra Kvitova, No. 3 seed Simona Halep, former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, the slumping Genie Bouchard, and German threats Angie Kerber and Sabine Lisicki.
“Unfortunately I get sick in Eastbourne,” Kvitova said of her scant grasscourt preparation. “Every day is better. So I hope on Tuesday will be good form. Of course, the preparation, because I got sick, wasn’t perfect. But I’m trying to find a good form.”
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