Venus Williams works out 'cobwebs' in first-round test
WIMBLEDON, England: As a three-time Wimbledon champion, Venus Williams knows that
getting through the early matches can sometimes be the tricky part.
Just making it past the first round this time almost proved too much.
Williams was down a set and a break, then down 3-1 in the final set, before pulling out a 2-6, 6-3,
7-5 win Tuesday over Alla Kudryavtseva, a 19-year-old Russian playing her first Wimbledon match.
"I think I've made my mistakes in the first round, and I think that it helps definitely to work out
some of those cobwebs," Williams said. "I think being able to hit a lot of balls in some pressure situations will definitely
help me in the coming rounds."
Williams, who has slipped to No. 31 in the rankings due to inactivity, injuries and a drop in form,
came to Wimbledon without any grass-court match preparation. It showed in the first set as she struggled to keep the ball
in the court.
"The first set went so fast and my balls were just flying out and I didn't have any answers," she said.
"That really bothered me because when things are going wrong, I can figure it out and change my game or adjust."
Down 2-0 and 0-30 on her serve in the second set, Williams looked in danger of going out in the opening
round for the first time since her Wimbledon debut in 1997. But she righted herself to win six of seven games for the set.
Williams then had to fight back again from a break down in the third. And when she served at 5-4 down,
30-30, she was two points from defeat. The Russian missed a backhand, and Williams smacked a 192 kph (119 mph) service winner
to hold. Williams then broke in the next game and served out the match at love.
"I enjoy the battle," she said. "I enjoy winning matches like this. This is what I do. If you want
to be successful at anything, it doesn't come easy."
Williams won Wimbledon in 2000, '01 and '05, and finished runner-up twice to her sister, Serena, in
2002 and 2003. Serena, seated courtside with their mother, Oracene Price, called out encouragement and advice throughout Tuesday's
"It's so important to have that support," Venus Williams said. "It was definitely key today for my
Maybe Venus will repay the favor when her sister, who struggled in the early going of her first-round
win Monday over Lourdes Dominguez Lino, returns to action Wednesday against Alicia Molik of Australia.
Top-seeded Justine Henin was lined up for a second-round match against Vera Dushevina of Russia, with
No. 3 Jelena Jankovic against Jarmila Gajdosova of Slovakia, and 1997 champion Martina Hingis against Aiko Nakamura of Japan.
In men's play, four-time defending champion Roger Federer was to play 18-year-old Juan Martin del Potro
of Argentina as he seeks his 50th straight win on grass. No. 3 Andy Roddick was due on Centre Court against Danai Udomchoke
Among the big name winners Tuesday were defending women's champion Amelie Mauresmo, 2004 winner Maria
Sharapova, second-seeded Rafael Nadal and former champion Lleyton Hewitt.
The biggest cheers on Centre Court and across the grounds were for Britain's Tim Henman, who reached
the second round by outlasting Carlos Moya 13-11 in the fifth set. The match had been suspended by darkness at 5-5 in the
final set Monday.
A double-fault by Moya on the third match point of the 24th game of the set — and seventh match
point overall — gave Henman a 6-3, 1-6, 5-7, 6-2, 13-11 win.
"This place is so special to me and I've had so many experiences over the years I always believe that
good things are going to happen," said Henman, a four-time semifinalist playing his 14th Wimbledon.
He won't have much time to enjoy it: Henman was scheduled to play his next match Wednesday against
Spain's Feliciano Lopez.