Day 2 at Wimbledon was again affected by the weather, and while some matches were postponed, some players made it through on the outside courts without covers, including 41-year old veteran Venus Williams, who survived a marathon contest against Mihaela Buzarnescu, eventually prevailing after 2 hours 37 minutes, 7-5 4-6 6-3.
About this tournament and playing for the first time, not really having experience, switching fast from clay to grass, all of this is new, all of this is different. I grew up on clay, so I like to play on clay. I didn't really have that many matches playing on grass. I've never played here the main draw. Everything is new. But I just try to have fun. I just try to enjoy it. Barbora Krejcikova
There were eyebrows raised that the 5-time winner was even playing on an outside court but Williams, who was a beaten finalist in 2017, insisted: “I wasn’t disappointed. I am here to play and I am here to play on whatever court I am put on.
“As long as I win on that court, that is all I care about.”
Play got under way at the All England Club on time but the wet weather soon returned and forced tTuesday’s action on the outside courts to be suspended in the early afternoon, leaving Centre Court and Court One ensuring some play was achieved with the two roofs closed.
Out on Court No 3, the older Williams sister, who was competing in her 90th Grand Slam tournament, captured her 90th Wimbledon victory in a result that snapped a 6-match losing streak dating back to her second-round Australian Open loss to Sara Errani when she sustained ankle and knee injuries.
Struggling to gain momentum since, Williams has fallen to No 111 in the WTA rankings and this was a welcome return to form as she struck 33 winners, including 10 aces, and frequently drew gasps from the admiring No 3 Court crowd.
Buzarnescu has also battled ailments and, in 2017, at the age of 29, became the oldest player to make her Top 100 debut in a decade, after spending much of her career beset by various injuries.
She went on to reach the Top 20 after winning her maiden title at San Jose in 2018, only to suffer an ankle injury the following week that sidelined her for 2 months.
The Romanian left-hander has yet to recapture her that form, but found 28 winners of her own.
For much of the first set, Williams kept the Romanian at bay with her first serve, though the World No 160’s ability to find sharp angles with her skidding strokes paid dividends in the longer rallies.
At 5-5, edgy errors from Buzarnescu meant that 3 break points went begging and the American gritted out a crucial hold, then kept the pressure on to break for the set.
A loose opening service game, featuring one of her 8 double faults, ultimately cost Williams the second, which ended in 6 consecutive service holds without the hint of a break point, and Buzarnescu sealing it with an ace and a clean one-two punch.
Some glorious attacking tennis at the start of the decider swung momentum firmly back towards Williams, who leaped out to a 5-1 lead when things got more complicated again.
A match point was squandered with a netted forehand and, sensing opportunity, Buzarnescu found some of her own best tennis to reduce the deficit to 5-3.
With spots of rain starting to fall, the pressure was on the American to wrap up the win and it took a gripping 4-deuce tussle in which she had to save 3 break points, before an unreturned serve finally sealed victory on her 3rd match point.
Next up for the former World No 1 is a second-round meeting with 21st seed Ons Jabeur from Tunisia, who eased past Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson 6-2, 6-1.
Meanwhile, the American has also opted to play with Nick Kyrgios in mixed doubles here.
“..I think it’d be fun to play with Nick Kyrgios,” Venus Williams replied just about 4 years ago when asked about who she would want to play mixed doubles with.
Besides teaming up with sister Serena in doubles which ended many a year ago, and playing mixed doubles with Bob Bryan over a decade ago, her game was predominantly singles.
Williams did win the mixed doubles championships at the Australian and French Open back in 1998 and was a finalist at Wimbledon nearly 15 years ago.
She teamed with teen Coco Gauff at the French Open, but they bowed out in the first round.
Elsewhere, a number of seeds were able to progress before the rain arrived, with 8th-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova able to beat Tamara Zidansek from Slovenia, 7-5 6-4, and Maria Sakkari, the No 15 seed from Greece cruising past Arantxa Rus from the Netherlands, 6-1 6-1.
Pliskova, a former World No 1, took an hour 17 minutes to charge back from a late break down in the first set to win, booking a spot in the second round in London for the 8th consecutive edition of the event.
On Monday, the Czech fell out of the Top 10 of the WTA singles rankings for the first time in nearly 5 years, but her powerful game remained unaffected as she slammed 10 aces, won 82 percent of her first-service points, and converted all 3 of the break points she held.
Zidansek was playing her first match since a breakthrough run to her maiden major semi-final in Paris mere weeks ago, which put her into the Top 50 for the first time, but after an early lead, the Slovene could not quite keep pace with the firepower from Pliskova, as the Czech had 26 winners to Zidansek’s 14.
A break by Zidansek helped her build a quick 3-0 lead, but when serving for the set at 5-3, Zidansek could not keep her run going, and Pliskova broke her serve by forcing an error with a fierce forehand that kicked off a streak of 4 straight games, who clinched the set with back-to-back aces.
In the second, Pliskova got a break for 3-2 and after saving a break point in the next game she rode out the set to take the win, firing aces on game points to win her last 2 service games to love.
Pliskova has another challenging match next up, as she will face former Top 20 player Donna Vekic of Croatia, who eased past Anastasia Potapova of Russia, 6-1 6-4.
Sakkari swept through her Dutch opponent, Rus, to win in just 49 minutes in a match that was postponed from Monday due to rain.
The Greek won the first set in 20 minutes, and did not concede a single point during her service games.
The second set saw the French Open semi-finalist maintain her stellar game play, reaching a quick break again at 2-0 and pushing through for another 3 games without giving any away.
Rus bit back, clinching one game, but she was no match for Sakkari, who came through with a love-game immediately after, closing the match to face Shelby Rogers on Thursday, after the American knocked out Australia’s Sam Stosur.
After suffering a gallant first-round loss in her 17th trip to the All England Club, the veteran wild-card, who went down swinging, is adamant retirement is not on the cards.
The 37-year-old mother of one staged a brave comeback, fending off 3 match points from love 40-down at 4-5 in the second set, to level the encounter, but the 2011 US Open champion was unable to convert the momentum of an early 3rd-set service break into her first Wimbledon singles win since 2018.
Asked if she felt it may have been her last singles match at Wimbledon, Stosur laughed: “Well, I better start winning some matches to make sure I can get in!
“I dunno, I’m not sure. If I can play another one, then I’d obviously love to be back here again at Wimbledon,” she added. “If that can happen, that would be great, but if not, that was a good fight here to leave my singles.”
American Alison Riske could not join the march of the seeds into the second round, after the 28th seed was knocked out in a 3-setter by another Czech, Tereza Martincova, 6-2 4-6 6-1.
While former champion Angelique Kerber improved her all-time Wimbledon record to 32-11, reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova is now 1-0 in the main draw.
Having previously lost in Wimbledon qualifying 3 times and playing her first match since becoming a major-winner in Paris, the No 14 seed needed just 70 minutes to ease past Denmark’s talented teenager Clara Tauson, 6-3 6-2.
“About this tournament and playing for the first time, not really having experience, switching fast from clay to grass, all of this is new, all of this is different,” Krejcikova told reporters in her pre-tournament press conference.
“I grew up on clay, so I like to play on clay. I didn’t really have that many matches playing on grass. I’ve never played here the main draw. Everything is new.
“But I just try to have fun. I just try to enjoy it. I just try to improve. I just feel that so far I really don’t know what to do on grass yet. I just feel that I don’t really know how to use my shot. I still have some time to find out.”
As it turned out, Krejcikova used her whole arsenal to great effect against the talented 18-year-old Dane, hitting 20 winners to 14 unforced errors, and never losing her serve while saving all 5 break points she faced.
Up next, Krejcikova faces a stern test in former Top 10 player Andrea Petkovic, after the German scored her first win at a Grand Slam since the 2019 US Open over Jasmine Paolini of Italy, 6-4 6-3.