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Старый 22nd June 2004, 23:34
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Serena Launches Title Defense With Wimbledon Win
By Adrianna Outlaw

Jie Zheng pushed Serena Williams to the breaking point 10 times, but the top-seeded Williams' serve and nerve was simply unbreakable on the most meaningful points as she launched defense of her Wimbledon title with today's 6-3, 6-1 victory.

Bidding to become the first woman to win three consecutive Wimbledon crowns since Steffi Graf reigned at the All England Club from 1991-93, Williams vigilantly protected serve as if it were as precious as the gold tennis racquet dangling from her necklace. Williams did not drop serve in the match in wrapping up her first-round win in 66-minutes.

Though the 52nd-ranked Zheng pressed Williams in several close games, the defending champion was on the offensive for much of the match. Williams struck six aces and persistently pounded the shallow serves emanating from the racquet of the 5-foot-4 1/2, 126-pound Chinese, who was out muscled, but not outhustled in the first meeting between the pair.

"The most special thing is coming back as champ," Williams said. "Win, lose or draw it's a great feeling to be defending champion at Wimbledon. I don't get that feeling at any other Grand Slam."

As father Richard Williams and older sister Venus, who was runner-up to Serena in the last two Wimbledon finals, the six-time Grand Slam champion played her first grass-court match since scoring a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Venus in the 2003 final.

Williams whipped 29 winners to offset 24 errors and though she missed the mark with several groundstrokes and was not particularly sharp, she showed a willingness to move forward into the court as she did in her return to tennis at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami. Grass rewards agile, athletic players and Williams, whose father Richard has studied tapes of men's champion Roger Federer in recent months, appeared eager to impose her attacking game on her opponent, winning 20 of her 26 net approaches.

Holding a 4-3 first-set lead, Williams reeled off seven straight games to take the first set and gain a 5-0 lead in the second before finally donating a game to Zheng with unforced errors.

"I wanted to try out some things and the first round is the time to do them," Williams said. "I am playing good. You never hear me say I am playing good so that is pretty bold and confident for me to say that. Honestly, I think (that was) one of the few times I think I did pretty decent."

One of the defending champions few defensive moments on the day came in the post-match press conference. Asked to explain her unforced error total, Williams, whose aggressive style of play typically results in high totals of both winners and unforced errors, invited reporters to practice.

"Well, I'm going to come in here, you guys are going to coach me now? You guys are going to be coaches now? You're going to talk about unforced errors?" Williams responded. "Feel free to come out on the practice court if you guys want to help out."

It appears unlikely Williams will need reporters to supplement her coaching staff prior to her second-round match with France's Stephanie Foretz.

Источник: TennisWeek
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