London: Five-time champion Venus Williams and 40-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm reached the Wimbledon second round on Monday, striking an early blow for the tournament`s senior citizens at the 125th Championships.
Williams, 31, was untroubled in disposing of Uzbekistan`s Akgul Amanmuradova 6-3, 6-1, showing no signs of the hip injury which kept her off the tour for five months until her Eastbourne return last week.
The American, whose choice of a loose-fitting, zipped-up, baggy outfit caused as much conversation as her free-flowing tennis on Court Two, fired 23 winners past the Uzbek.
"Coming into any major there is a bit of tension and because I haven`t played a lot I think that adds a little pressure on me," Venus said.
"But it`s always great to be back. I think playing a few matches at Eastbourne helpd me feel comfortable here.
"I was happy to be playing at all after missing so much of the year. That was a big plus for me today."
Williams now takes on Date-Krumm who became the second oldest winner of a singles match at Wimbledon with her 6-0, 7-5 demolition of British wild card Katie O`Brien.
Date-Krumm, a semi-finalist at the All England Club in 1996 and who made her debut in 1989, had the honour of playing the first match on the new Court Three which has replaced the old Court Two, the former Graveyard of the Champions."I remember 1996 on the Centre Court. I played against Steffi Graf and it was in darkness," recalled the Japanese of the year she last won a Wimbledon match.
"We played over two days. It was a big memory for me. Then after 15 years I win in the first round and it`s already a miracle."
Last year`s beaten finalist Vera Zvonareva made a winning return as the Russian second seed defeated America`s Alison Riske 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.
Zvonareva`s last match at the All England Club 12 months ago ended painfully as she lost in straight sets against Serena Williams in her first Grand Slam final appearance.
The 26-year-old, who was also beaten by Kim Clijsters in the US Open final, was pushed hard by world number 118 Riske, but eventually prevailed to set up a second round match against compatriot Elena Vesnina.
"She played some good tennis but I tried to stay focused. I had some ups and downs but I`m really happy I was able to pull it off in the end," Zvonareva said.
"I lost my concentration for a bit but I always fight for every point and I was able to pick it up in the third set."
Later Monday, Victoria Azarenka, the fourth seeded Belarusian who made the quarter-finals in 2009, faces Slovakia`s Magdalena Rybarikova.
Also in action is Australia`s Jelena Dokic who returns to Centre Court where in 1999 she shocked world number one Martina Hingis to become the lowest-ranked player to defeat the top seed in a Grand Slam opener.Dokic, who also made the semi-finals in 2000, faces 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone.
Israel`s Shahar Peer was the only seed to lose in early action with the number 22 going down 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to Ksenia Pervak of Russia.
First Published: Monday, June 20, 2011, 22:38