return of the queen

Serena Williams 'trying to find the rhythm' after powering to Wimbledon second round

Chasing a 24th Grand Slam title, Williams defeated Arantxa Rus 7-5, 6-3.

SERENA WILLIAMS SHRUGGED off 30 degree heat and no little rust as she made her way beyond the first round challenge of Arantxa Rus 7-5, 6-3 at Wimbledon.

After giving birth last year, it was the 23-time Grand Slam winner’s first time at Wimbledon since claiming the 2016 title.

Wimbledon 2018 - Day One - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Nigel French Nigel French

On Court One, the 36-year-old struggled for fluidity but had too much power for Rus, the world 107 who made the third round in 2012 but failed to get out of qualifying on her last three visits.

In the opening game Williams found herself under pressure as Rus raced to 30-0 on the American’s serve. But in what would become a familiar theme, Williams came storming back and let out her first scream of celebration as she moved 1-0 ahead.

An immediate break for the 25th seed appeared to signal a comfortable progression, however Rus was not downbeat and battled back to level straight away. Williams was not the most mobile from the baseline but she was able to dominate from deep, her power enabling her to dictate most of the rallies – the deep forehand cross-court a particularly productive weapon.

She needed two mistakes from Rus to move ahead, though, the 27-year-old firing into the net before over-hitting a comfortable forehand to leave Williams roaring in celebration. Rus threatened to level the match in the second set with some more excellent forehands on the run, the lefty broke the American legend early to lead 3-1.

Wimbledon 2018 - Day One - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Nigel French Nigel French

It was not to be, though, as Williams reeled off five games in a row with a series of punishing ground strokes, with another Rus error allowing her esteemed opponent to serve for the match.

Williams, looking to move within one title of Martina Navratilova’s Open era record of nine Wimbledon titles, fired 23 winners past Rus and broke serve four times. Victory was sealed on a fifth match point.

Seeded 25 this year despite a ranking of 181, Williams will next face  either Bulgarian qualifier Viktoriya Tomova or Czech wild card Tereza Smitkova.

“I don’t know if I’m relieved, more motivated, but I am happy to get through that,” said Williams, whose return to Slam tennis after pregnancy at Roland Garros last month ended in a fourth round injury withdrawal.

“It’s a great feeling to be back, it’s been a couple of years since I played on grass, so it is difficult trying to find the rhythm.”

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