Venus keeps knee status under wraps

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WIMBLEDON, England --- Venus Williams ambled onto sun-splashed Court 1 at Wimbledon on Thursday, a slight hitch in her step and an odd-looking wrap around her left knee. White tape here, brown tape there.

Good thing the five-time Wimbledon champion didn't need to run to hit serves, huh? Powered in part by her big-as-can-be deliveries, Williams overwhelmed 73rd-ranked Kateryna Bondarenko, of Ukraine, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round to stretch her All England Club winning streaks to 16 matches and 27 sets.

Afterward, Williams was coy about the bandaging, saying it was "just for support."

"I really hate tape -- like, hate. But I just needed it this time. I accepted that, and I realize that this is Wimbledon. So since it was Wimbledon, I taped," said Williams, who is trying to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1991-93 to win three consecutive titles at the All England Club.

Asked why she needed help for this match after not wearing anything on that leg in the first round Tuesday, Williams said: "Well, what happened was, I needed some support, and then I went and got the support, and then I wore it in the match. ... I mean, I think all the players might start wearing it, because it's so supportive."

At last month's French Open, where Williams lost in the third round, her father, Richard, said she had pain in her left knee. Her mother, Oracene Price, wouldn't offer an explanation Thursday after watching Williams hit six aces at up to 119 mph against Bondarenko, saying only, "Maybe she'll tell you. I'm not going have her screaming at me."

The Great Tape Caper produced the closest thing to real intrigue at a tournament that has largely been devoid of surprises, other than Maria Sharapova's loss a day earlier.

There were, however, two young American qualifiers who both made their way into the third round at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time: 17-year-old Melanie Oudin, of Marietta, Ga., and 21-year-old Jesse Levine, of Boca Raton, Fla.

"I'm still, like, trying to comprehend everything," said Oudin, who is ranked 124th and beat Yaroslava Shvedova, of Kazakh-stan, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

The 133rd-ranked Levine, who was born in Canada and moved to Florida when he was 13, defeated Pablo Cuevas, of Uruguay, 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.

Andy Roddick, twice a Wim-bledon runner-up, got to the third round with a 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win over Igor Kunitsyn, of Russia. Playing on the grass that gives solid serves extra verve, Roddick hit 18 aces and faced break points in only one game.

Only one seeded player departed: No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro, who lost 6-3, 7-5, 7-5 to Lleyton Hewitt, who is ranked 56th in the world.


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