LONDON (Reuters) The cobwebs were dusted off and normal service was swiftly
resumed, but for a few games at the start of her 6-4 6-1 victory over Margarita Gasparyan, Serena Williams looked edgy, vulnerable and nothing like a five times Wimbledon champion.
Embarking on her quest to clinch a second non-calendar year grand slam, Williams strode out on to Court One under hazy skies, but in the face of an early onslaught from her Russian opponent, she was quickly turning the air blue as her frustration levels mounted.
On paper it should have been a walkover for Williams, playing a woman without a victory on the WTA tour who was facing her first match at Wimbledon after battling through the qualifiers.
But for a brief time the form book looked in danger being hurled out the window as Gasparyan broke in the first game and held on bravely, firing winners off both flanks with Williams shuffling uncomfortably around the court.
The American had not played a competitive game since clinching a 20th grand slam title at the French Open three weeks ago and the ring rust took six testing games to drop off.
It was always going to be hard for a woman ranked 113 to keep up the fight and Williams was in no mood to let her turn her early break into a more decisive stranglehold on the match.
The world number one saved another break point in the fourth game, before hitting back to level at 3-3 but only after she received a code violation for “an audible obscenity”.
The 33-year-old broke again when Gasparyan netted a backhand to clinch the first set after 48 minutes of nip and tuck battle, but then powered away, breaking twice in the second set and crunching down a smash on match point to clinch victory.
Williams is no stranger to scares in the early stages of a grand slam, and was none too pleased to have been tested in her opening salvo.
“I would be lying if I said I want a hard match,” she told reporters as she weighed up the unexpectedly tough challenge Gasparyan had posed.
“At the end of the day, I think it’s definitely good for me. But no one really wants to be in any sort of difficult match.”
The next step on Williams’s quest to hold all four majors at the same time is the 93rd-ranked Hungarian Timea Babos, another unknown quantity, who she has never faced before.
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