Serena Williams opened the defense of her Wimbledon tennis title with a straight-sets victory against Portugal’s Michelle Larcher de Brito, while 2008 men’s champion Rafael Nadal beat Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
The 28-year-old Williams, who secured her 12th Grand Slam title at this year’s Australian Open, won 6-0, 6-4 in the opening match today on Centre Court. She defeated her 17-year-old opponent in 1 hour, 3 minutes.
“She’s a good player,” Williams, also champion in 2002 and 2003, said at a news conference. “She doesn’t look it, but she definitely packs a punch. It was good for me because most people that do play nowadays hit really hard.”
Spain’s Nadal, absent last year because of a knee injury, followed the American on court and beat Nishikori 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
Australia’s Samantha Stosur, runner-up at the French Open this month and seeded No. 6 at Wimbledon, lost her first round match 6-4, 6-4 against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi.
Andy Murray won 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 against the Czech Republic’s Jan Hajek as he attempts to become the first British man to win the title since Fred Perry in 1936.
“It was good,” Murray said in a news conference. “The start of the match was tricky. I haven’t seen him play that much. He started very well. But once I got back into the first set, I did start to feel a lot more comfortable. Served well and didn’t give him many chances.”
Sweden’s Robin Soderling, finalist at the French Open the past two years, beat Robby Ginepri of the U.S. 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
Former world No. 4 James Blake of the U.S. lost in straight sets to Robin Haase of the Netherlands. Blake, who missed the French Open because of knee tendinitis and has dropped out of the top 100, said he may reassess his tennis career after the U.S. Open, which starts Aug. 30 in New York.
Surgery for Blake?
“At this point in my career, I don’t know if surgery is a viable option,” Blake said in a news conference.
Larcher de Brito failed to win a game in the opening set, with Williams breaking her opponent’s serve at love in the third game and completing a 6-0 score by firing down her fifth ace of the match.
Larcher de Brito recovered from 0-30 to win in the third game of the second set and held again on her next three service games, saving a match point in the last of those as Williams missed a backhand.
Williams, who already had a break in the set, wrapped up the victory in the next game. It was her 43rd straight first-round win at a Grand Slam tournament.
Russia’s Maria Sharapova, the 2004 women’s champion, beat countrywoman Anastasia Pivovarova in straight sets to reach the second round. The 23-year-old, now ranked No. 17 on the WTA Tour, won 6-1, 6-0.
Seven Grand Slams
Nadal, winner of his seventh Grand Slam title at the French Open earlier this month, maintained his record of never losing in the first round at a Grand Slam.
The top-ranked player on the ATP Tour, Nadal is seeded No. 2 at Wimbledon behind defending champion Roger Federer. The Spaniard took his record to 34-8 on grass with today’s win.
“I think I played a very good match,” Nadal said in a news conference. “It doesn’t feel like a defense of the title, Roger has to defend that. I have the chance to defend 2008.”
Nadal broke serve in the opening game of the match and controlled most of the opening set, although he had to save two break points in the fourth game -- recovering by taking four straight points.
His only service break in the second set came in the fifth game, and his Japanese opponent lost another service game with a double fault at the start of the third. Nishikori, a wild-card entry, broke back in the sixth game before Nadal immediately broke back.
Murray, 23, who achieved his best result at Wimbledon by reaching the semifinals last year, was one of only two British men in this year’s draw, a record low. He is now the only representative from the British Isles after fellow Scot Jamie Baker exited today and six British women lost their opening matches. That’s the worst result for British players in the tournament’s 133-year history.
Sam Querrey of the U.S., the No. 18 seed, reached the second round for the second time when Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky quit their match in the third set. Querrey has won three titles this year, including one on grass at Queen’s Club on June 13.