Wimbledon – Women’s report: Venus stumps Brit


Holder Venus Williams overcame a shaky start to reach the Wimbledon second round with a 7-6 6-1 victory over British wildcard Naomi Cavaday.

2008 Wimbledon Venus Williams first round - 0

The American was given a tougher than expected workout on Centre Court by the Englishwoman, world-ranked 197, who matched the seventh seed stroke for stroke in the opening set before wilting in the second.

It was far from vintage Williams, who has not reached a final in her seven events this year and again declined to hone her game on grass in the lead-up to the tournament.

From 40-0 up on her opening serve Williams was distracted by an insect buzzing around her ankles. She fended it off with an irritated swat but, with her concentration interrupted, Cavaday reeled off five successive points to break.

Cavaday, who came within a whisker of dumping out former world number one Martina Hingis in the first round 12 months ago but spurned two match points, confidently held her first two service games as a clearly rattled Williams struggled to find her rhythm.

Betraying no nerves, the left-handed Cavaday peppered the flanks with raking forehands and double-handed backhands that produced a torrent of clean winners.

Recovering her composure, Williams broke back at the second opportunity in the sixth game when Cavaday tamely netted.

No further breaks sent the opening set into a tiebreak. Cavaday hit back from 4-2 down to level but a netted backhand handed Williams two set points and although Cavaday saved the first, the American took the set when her opponent again netted from a high-kicking second serve.

Williams raced through the second set in just 21 minutes as Cavaday’s consistency unravelled, taking the match with a crisp forehand winner.

Williams is seeking to join a select handful of players — including Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf — who have won at least five singles titles at the citadel of grasscourt tennis.

She next faces Anna Keothavong, the highest-ranked British woman who beat Vania King of the U.S. 4-6 6-2 6-3.

Another former champion, Maria Sharapova, enjoyed a low-key passage to the second round after seeing off French qualifier Stephanie Foretz 6-1 6-4.

The 2004 winner and third seed, playing her first competitive match on grass this year, took full advantage of some error-strewn hitting from Foretz who is ranked outside the top 100.

Sharapova, 21, broke twice in the opening set and although the bespectacled Foretz proved more resilient in the next, breaking her opponent for the only time, the Russian sauntered to victory without ever producing her best tennis.

Sharapova was a semi-finalist here in 2005 and 2006 and a fourth round loser to eventual champion Williams last year.

Sania Mirza, meanwhile, battled through the pain barrier to reach the second round with a scrappy 7-6 3-6 6-4 win over Colombia’s Catalina Castano.

The Indian number one, making a comeback after undergoing wrist surgery in April, needed a medical time out at 4-1 down in the second set to treat what appeared to be a stiff right shoulder.

Although the rub down could not save her from losing the second set, Mirza stood firm in the decider to wrap up victory after two hours 16 minutes.

While Mirza lapped up the applause from the vocal Indian fans packed into court 11, Castano was left to reflect on yet another fleeting visit to the All England Club.

In six appearances at the grasscourt grand slam, she has lost in the first round every time.

Mirza, seeded 32nd, will next face Spaniard Maria Martinez Sanchez as she attempts to reach the third round here for the first time.

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