Venus downs Date-Krumm in epic, Nadal shines

LONDON,  (Reuters) – It was Venus’s turn to write the  Williams plot line at Wimbledon yesterday as she survived a  gripping three-set battle with 40-year-old Japanese Kimiko  Date-Krumm.

Her sister Serena sobbed after beating Aravane Rezai to open  her title defence and 23rd seed Venus was made to sweat buckets  under Centre Court’s closed roof for a 6-7 6-3 8-6 win in just  under three hours.

Venus Williams

Men’s champion Rafa Nadal also got his first taste of indoor  grasscourt tennis but needed considerably less time to reach the  third round by swatting aside American upstart Ryan Sweeting 6-3  6-2 6-4.

After a frustrating three-hour rain delay, last year’s  runner-up Tomas Berdych and British hope Andy Murray were  exposed to the elements but proved equally ruthless on Court  One. Berdych crushed Julien Benneteau 6-1 6-4 6-2 and fourth  seed Murray cruised past Tobias Kamke 6-3 6-3 7-5.

With the light fading three-times runner-up Andy Roddick  beat Romania’s Victor Hanescu in straight sets to book a  third-round clash with dangerous Spanish left-hander Feliciano  Lopez.

Nadal will be spared the fury of Canadian Milos Raonic’s  sledgehammer serve in the last 32 after the 20-year-old slipped  awkwardly and retired injured when leading 3-2 in the first set  against Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller.

Once again, however, it was the name Williams that had  tongues wagging at the rain-hit championships.

On Monday it was a tennis outfit resembling a pair of  curtains, on Tuesday Serena’s courtside blubbing took centre  stage and this time it was the sheer ferocity of the 31-year-old  Venus’s spell-binding duel with a veteran defying her age.

With play delayed on all other courts, Williams and  Date-Krumm, who on Monday became the second oldest player to win  a women’s singles match at Wimbledon, provided an early  contender for match of the tournament.

“I thought she played unbelievable today,” Williams, who  returned from a five-month injury layoff at Eastbourne last  week, told reporters.

“I thought she had some luck on her side, too, with net  cords, balls hitting lines. I just thought today was a perfect  storm for her to try to get a win.

“Thankfully I had some answers.”

PIPE DREAM

Date-Krumm made her Wimbledon debut in 1989 when the  Williams sisters were still bashing balls about on park courts  in Compton and you have to go back to 1996 for her best  Wimbledon performance when she lost to Steffi Graf in the  semi-finals before taking a 12-year break from tennis.

Rafael Nadal

“She hits a ball that no one else hits. I never played  anyone who hits the ball like this,” Williams said of the gritty  Japanese whose straight-line ball trajectory was a throwback to  the days before topspin ruled the courts.

Williams certainly seemed bemused as she lost her first  three service games to trail 5-1. She fought back to force a  tiebreak, went 6-1 down, clawed it back to 6-6 but slipped  behind as an inspired Date-Krumm grabbed the next two points.

Williams upped her game to level the match and moved 2-0 up  in the decider before Date-Krumm launched a final attack,  hitting shots unerringly close to the lines and raiding the net  at every opportunity.

At 6-6, 30-30 former world number four Date-Krumm sniffed a  break but Williams scorched a sublime backhand winner and sealed  victory in the following game.

Play finally started elsewhere around the All England Club  at 1430 GMT with organisers desperately hoping to work through a  backlog of matches.

Fast-track victories like Nadal’s will help. Indoors or out  the French Open champion has quickly found the grasscourt groove  although he would prefer having the sun on his back.

“A new experience for me, a good experience.” he said. “But  the tournament is outdoor, it’s not indoor. I prefer outdoors,”  he said after his forehand put Sweeting to the sword in front of  Prince Charles’ wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.

Women’s second seed Vera Zvonareva, runner-up to Serena  Williams last year, rolled into the third round after beating  fellow Russian Elena Visnina 6-1 7-6 altough such is her low  profile that she was not even required to give a news  conference.

Wailing fourth seed Victoria Azarenka, whose sound effects  have not pleased the top brass at Wimbledon, crushed Iveta  Benesova and last year’s surprise semi-finalists Petra Kvitova  and Tsvetana Pironkova also advanced.

One women’s seed to fall was Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the  self-confessed Lady Gaga of tennis.

She walked on court wearing a white frilly jacket adorned  with tennis balls but the 30th-seeded American was bounced out  in a delayed first-round match by Japan’s Misaki Doi.

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