Tuesday, 26 June 2012
World No.1 Maria Sharapova declared her comeback complete as she opened her quest for a second Wimbledon crown with a routine straight-sets win over Australian Anastasia Rodionova.
While five-times champion Venus Williams's struggles continued with a first-round exit on day one, Sharapova led the top seeds through to the second round with a 6-2 6-3 defeat of Rodionova.
Polish third seed Agnieszka Radwanska, Australian fifth seed Samantha Stosur, 2011 French Open champion Li Na and former world No.1 Kim Clijsters in her Wimbledon swan song also advanced.
Sharapova's French Open triumph this month gave the Russian a full set of grand slam trophies, three years after the Russian feared shoulder surgery may end her career.
Now the 25-year-old said her comeback was over and she'd spend the rest of her career trying to add to her major collection.
"I'll have the French Open for the rest of my life and it's something that I can think back on and know that I was part of the Roland Garros history, but this sport puts you back to reality so fast," Sharapova said.
"Within days you're back practising, getting ready, and it starts from scratch, starts from the first round.
"So when you're a grand slam champion, you're No.1 in the world, everybody is more hungry across the net to beat you.
"I'm still very humble and very appreciative of what I have, but I still believe that I can achieve a lot more."
Sharapova next faces Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, who reached the semi-finals in 2010.
Radwanska beat Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3 6-3 after Stosur had the honour of being the first winner of the 126th championships.
Stosur's 6-1 6-3 rout of Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro booked the US Open champion a second-round match against 2008 Australian Open junior champion Aranxta Rus of the Netherlands.
"It was one of my best grasscourt matches in recent years," Stosur said.
Li, the 11th seed who looms as Stosur's fourth-round opponent, also won 6-3 6-1 over Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan.
Clijsters, who missed the French Open through injury, made up for lost time with a 6-2 6-4 victory over fellow former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic, the 18th seed.
Clijsters, unseeded this year and playing for the last time at the All England Club, next meets Czech Andrea Hlavackova.
Other winners on Monday included eighth seed Angelique Kerber, a 6-4 6-1 victor over Czech Lucie Hradecka, and fellow German Sabine Lisicki, a semi-finalist last year who accounted for Croatian Petra Martic 6-4 6-2.
But Williams suffered her earliest exit at Wimbledon since debuting in 1997.
Unseeded after being sidelined with illness for sixth months late last year and into 2012, Williams lost 6-1 6-3 to Russia's world No.79 Elena Vesnina.
Williams's first-round demise followed a second-round loss at the French Open and once again triggered questions about her future in the game.
"There's no way I'm just going to sit down and give up just because I have a hard time the first five or six freakin' tournaments back," the former world No.1 said.
"That's just not me. I feel like I am a great player - I am a great player.
"Unfortunately, I had a deal with circumstances that people don't normally have to deal with in this sport.
"But I can't be discouraged by that, so I'm up for challenges. I have great tennis in me."