World No.1 Hangs On, Venus In Crushing Form
Published July 30, 2012 12:00
LONDON, England - Any doubts about Venus Williams' form coming into the Olympics were put to rest in just 63 minutes on Monday, as the former World No.1 overpowered World No.9 Sara Errani in the first round, 63 61.
Williams, who reached a slew of Premier-level quarterfinals upon first coming back from her illness lay-off but had fallen very early at the French Open and Wimbledon, was in vintage form against Errani, clubbing 32 winners to just 16 unforced errors to totally dominate the Italian French Open finalist.
"Oh my gosh, it was really great," Williams said. "There were definitely nerves, but grass is my favorite surface and I felt great out there. It's never easy to draw a top seed. I'm unseeded here, and now I feel like I'm the No.9 seed, and hopefully I'll meet another seed and become their number too. So, one by one...
"I fought so much to be here. There are a lot of people happy to be here, but I'm not just happy, I want to do something about it and play well for my country."
Williams has now won 18 of her last 21 matches against Top 10 players on grass. The three losses all came to the same player, and a bit of an obvious one: Serena Williams, in the Wimbledon final in 2002, 2003 and 2009.
Errani was gracious in defeat. "She served strong and played strong," the Italian said. "If she serves better than you and hits better than you, then you will lose."
Another marquee name among the first round winners was perhaps the most marquee of all, World No.1 Victoria Azarenka. The Belarusian's game went awry in the second set - four winners, 14 unforced - but she was rock solid in the first and third set and eventually got past Irina-Camelia Begu, 61 36 61.
"It was a long wait for me - I was going to play yesterday but it got cancelled," Azarenka said. "In your first match on Centre Court there are always nerves and today I couldn't get into the match in the second set. There were too many mistakes. I'm glad I could turn things around and finish as strong as I started.
"I actually do get more nervous when I play for my country than when I play for myself," she added. "Hopefully the next round will be much easier for me."
Other seeds moving on were Angelique Kerber, Maria Kirilenko, Sabine Lisicki and Nadia Petrova. No.16 seed Petrova hit 35 winners - including 12 aces - to beat former Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie, 64 76(7).
"I'm quite exhausted," Petrova said. "Luckily my doubles partner Maria Kirilenko didn't waste too much energy, so hopefully she's in good shape for our match! I had to fight for every single point today, but I'm pleased to win."
"Today my opponent played great and had a big serve," Zheng said. "I had chances, two set points for the second set, but I couldn't control it. It's a little bit of bad luck and I'm disappointed - it's the Olympics and you really want to win.
"But it's still exciting to be here. I have doubles and I'm looking forward to it, because I won a bronze medal in Beijing in doubles, so I'll try again in London."