Venus cruises in Wimbledon opener

Nadal advances in straight sets

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WIMBLEDON, England --- Back on one of tennis' top stages, Venus Williams cut a familiar figure Monday at Wimbledon, from her latest original, somewhat-see-through outfit to her signature booming serves and aggressive groundstrokes.

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Venus Williams returns a shot to Uzbekistan's Akgul Amanmuradova during their first-round match at Wimbledon on Monday.   Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press
Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press
Venus Williams returns a shot to Uzbekistan's Akgul Amanmuradova during their first-round match at Wimbledon on Monday.

Williams smacked seven aces at up to 118 mph, totaled 23 winners to only five unforced errors, and overwhelmed 97th-ranked Akgul Amanmuradova, of Uzbekistan, 6-3, 6-1 in the first round at the All England Club.

The seven-time major champion was off the tour for about five months with a hip injury, including missing the French Open, and this is only her fourth tournament in nearly a year.

"It's a good place to start. And this is kind of like a home for her. She loves it," said Williams' hitting partner, David Witt. "She feels confident out here, and in women's tennis, 'confident' goes a long way."

"I do realize I don't have as many matches," said Williams, only 5-2 this season and only 9-3 since last July. "So, yeah, for sure, I know I need to kind of come out firing. Been pretty good at that in the past -- and today."

Also reaching the second round included 10-time major champion Rafael Nadal, whose parents sat in the Royal Box during his 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory over 90th-ranked Michael Russell of Houston. No. 4 Andy Murray and No. 10 Mardy Fish also advanced.

Nadal now will face another American, 69th-ranked Ryan Sweeting of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who dropped the first two sets against Pablo Andujar of Spain before coming back to win 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-1.

It'll be Sweeting's third match against Nadal this year. Nadal won the others in straight sets.

"They keep putting me up in the top half of the draw. I don't know what the deal is," Sweeting said. "What can I say? He's obviously one of the toughest opponents to play on any surface."

The second question at Nadal's news conference concerned whether he believes Murray, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic is likeliest to thwart his title hopes.

"My biggest opponent is Sweeting now. I am focused on my part of the draw. I'm focused on myself. To play against Andy or Djokovic or Federer only can be in the final; against Andy in the semifinals," the Spaniard said. "So let's talk about today. Let's talk about tomorrow. ... Let's (not) talk about ... 10 days or 12 days (from now), because I don't know if I am here or I am fishing in Mallorca." Four seeded players exited Monday, including No. 28 Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, who was beaten 2-6, 6-1, 8-6 by 19-year-old Christina McHale. No. 17 Kaia Kanepi lost to Sara Errani 6-1, 6-4; No. 22 Shahar Peer was eliminated 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 by Ksenia Pervak; and No. 30 Thomaz Bellucci was sent home in straight sets by 35-year-old Rainer Schuettler, the oldest man in the field.

Rain began falling at about 5 p.m., resulting in the suspension of 14 matches in progress and the postponement of 17 others.

On TV

Tuesday, 7 a.m., ESPN2


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