RAFAEL NADAL HAS opened his Wimbledon title defence with a convincing victory, beating Michael Russell of the United States 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
In keeping with tradition, the defending men’s champion played the first match on Centre Court at the All England Club.
The top-ranked Spaniard put on a worthy performance to begin the 125th edition of the championships.
Five-time women’s champion Venus Williams, meanwhile, was back on her favorite grass surface and swept into the second round with a straight-sets win over 97th-ranked Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan.
Williams, who returned to action at Eastbourne last week after an injury layoff of nearly five months, looked right at home at the All England Club as she beat Amanmuradova 6-3, 6-1 on the opening day of the 125th edition of the championships.
Williams kept her opponent waiting for several minutes on Court 2, with Amanmuradova sitting patiently on her courtside chair for the 31-year-old American to arrive. Once play started, Willliams took Amanmuradova apart in 59 minutes with her hard-hitting all-court game.
She served seven aces, broke four times and had 23 winners to only five unforced errors — none in the second set. “It’s always great to be back,” Williams said.
“To play a few matches at Eastbourne helped me feel pretty comfortable here. All in all, I’m pretty pleased. I only see pluses for today. I missed being out here playing.”
Amanmuradova, who has now lost in the first round at Wimbledon in all four appearances, is taller than Williams at 6-foot-3 and can hit the ball hard. But once Williams found her rhythm, she couldn’t be stopped, winning six games in a row and the last 12 points to close out the match.
Williams made a statement not only with her tennis but with her fashion sense — wearing a one-piece playsuit which exposed some of her back. The outfit featured cutout sleeves, a deep V neckline and a gold belt wrapped around the waist.
“It’s a jumper,” Williams said. “Jumpers are very ‘now,’ as is lace. The shoulders have a lot of draping. It’s a kind of trendy dress. It’s fun. The back is a like a cutout or peekaboo. I’m always trying to do something different and fun.”
In another featured women’s match, 2010 runner-up Vera Zvonareva overcame 115th-ranked American Alison Riske 6-0, 3-6, 6-3. The second-seeded Russian looked in trouble after the second set against the 20-year-old Riske, whose best career results have been on grass. But Zvonareva raised her game when she needed to and closed out the match with an ace.