After early scare Serena Williams cruises into Wimbledon second round
World number one struggled early but went on to win in straight sets and advance
Serena Williams celebrates winning her Ladies Singles first round match against Margarita Gasparyan of Russia during day one of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Twenty-year-old Margarita Gasparyan, a Russian making her Wimbledon debut, broke serve at the first opportunity and led 3-1 in the opening set.
Yet back came Williams and in the end ran out a 6-4 6-1 winner, a scoreline that reflected her dominance once she found her footing. It was her 17th first-round singles win at Wimbledon, with her record showing no losses at this stage.
A fall in the sixth game, and a code violation warning for an audible obscenity, might have put off a lesser player, but Williams put both behind her to recover the early break, and Gasparyan could not sustain a challenge after that point.
Williams is targeting the calendar Grand Slam of winning all four majors in the same year, a feat last achieved by Steffi Graf in 1988. She already holds the US Open, from last year, plus the Australian Open and French Open titles, so is a Wimbledon triumph away from the second non-calendar ‘Serena Slam’ of her illustrious career.
Williams dropped serve in the very first game, as she made a slow start against the qualifier.
While Gasparyan had played herself into form on grass by coming through the rounds at Roehampton last week, Williams fine-tuned her game alongside sister Venus at Jack Nicklaus’ pristine courts in North Palm Beach.
There was the revelation from Williams on Saturday that she is no great fan of the grass, and the way she began suggested rustiness on the surface.
Gasparyan decided to be the aggressor and it initially paid off, but once Williams hauled back the break there was only one direction the match would take.
Gasparyan appeared unimpeded by the strapping that ran down her right arm, but she surrendered the first set tamely, firstly with a double fault to give Williams set point, and then when planting the ball into the net on the next point.
A crushing backhand winner from Williams gave the 33-year-old a chance to break at the start of the second set, and she seized the opening.
There was a flicker of hope, soon extinguished, when Gasparyan moved to love-40 against the Williams serve when 3-1 behind.
Williams clapped her racquet after one brutal forehand winner from Gasparyan, and the title favourite could afford to offer such praise, with the match in the bag.
Williams said: “I knew she would be a good player. I can’t say I thought she’d be that good.
“When she’s playing against me she had nothing to lose and she did so good and she should be so proud.
“She came out so fast, I was like ‘Oh my god, if I don’t start I’m going to be down a set and I’m tired of being down a set’.”
Former semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka coasted through her opening match as she became the first woman through to the second round. The 25-year-old Belarusian reached the last-four stage in 2011 and 2012, and overwhelmed Estonian Anett Kontaveit 6-2 6-1 in just 57 minutes on Court 12. Serbian seventh seed Ana Ivanovic enjoyed a swift 6-1 6-1 victory over China’s Xu Yi-fan, and Australian Sam Stosur, seeded 22nd, won 6-4 6-4 against Montenegrin Danka Kovinic.