WIMBLEDON, England – On one point Tuesday at Wimbledon, Serena Williams dumped a forehand into the net and dropped to a knee, her jaw clenched as she let out a shriek.
On another, she pushed a backhand into the net while her feet gave way, yet again leaving her awkwardly splayed on the grass at Court 2, the same place where her sister Venus lost a day earlier.
By the end, the younger Williams’ 6-2, 6-4 victory over the 62nd-ranked Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic in the first round at the All England Club wasn’t exactly perfect or pretty.
“Definitely a little relief,” the sixth-seeded Williams said. “I was letting out a lot of cries. I was happy to get through that.”
Yes, Williams got the job done, something she couldn’t say the last time she was at a major championship. Last month at the French Open, the 30-year-old American tossed away a big lead and lost to a woman ranked 111th, the only first-round exit of Williams’ career in 48 Grand Slam tournaments.
Some other top players were sluggish at the start against unheralded foes Tuesday, when action was cut short in the evening because of rain.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal, for instance, trailed 4-0 against 80th-ranked Thomas Bellucci of Brazil before turning it around and winning 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-3.
“Fantastic for me,” Nadal said, “but I have to improve a lot for the next round.”
Defending women’s champion Petra Kvitova fell behind 3-0 and 4-1 but eventually used a seven-game run to take control and beat 96th-ranked Akgul Amanmuradova 6-4, 6-4.
Twelve singles matches were suspended in progress and four were postponed altogether.
Winners included 10th-seeded Mardy Fish of the United States, playing his first match since having a medical procedure on his heart a month ago. Fish, 30, defeated Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo of Spain 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (1).
All three Australian men in action exited, meaning none reached the second round at the All England Club for the first time since 1938. No. 20 Bernard Tomic was knocked out by David Goffin, Lleyton Hewitt lost to No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Matthew Ebden was beaten by Benoit Paire of France.