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Venus Williams works out 'cobwebs' in first-round test at Wimbledon


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 match.

"It's so important to have that support," Venus Williams said. "It was definitely key today for my win."

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 of Thailand.

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.

Jankovic puts end to Venus hopes

Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic underlined her title credentials by beating former world number one Venus Williams 6-4 4-6 6-1 to reach the French Open fourth round.

Williams began typically slowly and the Serbian broke in the opening game, which was enough to take the first set.

The American 26th seed played more aggressively and cut out the unforced errors in the second set as the match developed into an absorbing struggle.

But Jankovic, 22, struck at 1-1 in the decider and then broke again to win.


"I never had it in my mind that I would lose," said Jankovic, who came into the tournament as the form player after triumphing in Rome and posted her third straight win over Williams.

"I was a little bit tired in the second set, but I just went for it in the third and it paid off.

"It was an amazing third-round match and it was a shame that Venus had to go out so early. It's always good to beat one of the Williams sisters."

Williams has failed to get beyond the quarter-finals at Roland Garros since reaching the final in 2002.

I don't feel like she came out there and really beat me

Venus Williams

The 25-year-old has not reached a major final since winning the last of her five Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon in 2005.

"I got a little bit tired at the end," said the American.

"The third set went a little bit faster than what I expected. But am I discouraged? No, not at all.

"I don't feel like she came out there and really beat me. I just feel like at times she was a little more patient than I was."

And Williams insisted she would not be tempted to play any warm-up tournaments ahead of Wimbledon.

"I really feel good about my game. I would like it to click at Wimbledon," said Williams.

"I feel good to have conquered all the things that I've conquered.

"I just went long, long, long but it's only a matter of time before it goes in, in, in.

"I definitely feel like I could have done things to be in the winner's circle. I don't feel like I went out there and didn't have any courage.

"The result wasn't what I wanted but I feel really positive."

Venus overcomes spirited Cornet

Venus Williams

Venus Williams' experience was the difference as she overcame French teenager Alize Cornet in the first round of the French Open on Monday.

Cornet, 17, put up a spirited challenge and would have served for the first set had she converted a break point at 4-4.

Williams was inconsistent and dropped serve three times but she eventually came through 6-4 6-3.

The match was one of only six to be completed in the women's draw as rain played havoc with the schedule again.

Williams and Cornet had just finished their warm-up at 1000 BST when a heavy shower forced the players off.

They eventually returned at just gone 1300 BST and Williams took one hour and 28 minutes to reach the second round before the wet weather returned.


Williams is playing in her first Grand Slam of the season after missing the Australian Open with a wrist injury but she believes she is a threat to the title contenders.

"The most important thing is I'm on tour, then things can happen," she said. "I am just happy to be back out there and fit.

"But I'm a winner. I am counting my blessings but I definitely expect things from myself."

Elsewhere on Monday, Michaella Krajicek posted a 6-3 6-3 win over 31st seed Severine Bremond - who became the first seed to be eliminated from the tournament.

China's 16th seed Li Na beat Germany's Sandra Kloesel 7-6 (7-4) 6-0 while Australian Samantha Stosur thrashed American Jamea Jackson 6-1 6-2.