Serena eases through

Serena Williams celebrated her return to the big stage at Wimbledon by easing into the fourth round with a straight-sets victory over Maria Kirilenko.

Serena Williams celebrated her return to the big stage at Wimbledon by easing into the fourth round with a straight-sets victory over Maria Kirilenko.

Williams resumed her title defence in the grand surroundings of Court One after grumbling when her second-round was played on the far smaller Court Two, on the outer reaches of the All England Club.

She demonstrated why she should be in the limelight by crushing Kirilenko 6-3 6-2.

It was attritional stuff at times though. Although Kirilenko, the world number 27 from Russia, was outclassed, she refused to be outfought.

Williams was far from her best as she continues to find her way back from almost a year out through injury and illness, but her progress through Wimbledon is gaining momentum.

Timing the ball beautifully initially, Williams produced a vicious backhand in the second game to secure three break points and Kirilenko was quickly overwhelmed.

Williams, serving with ominous power and accuracy, won the next game without dropping a point as she raced into a 3-0 lead.

Brimming with controlled aggression, she glowered at the umpire when one shot was called long, but opted against using HawkEye.

Two more break points followed in the fourth game, only for a series of unforced errors to see Williams squander both and this time Kirilenko was able to hold serve.

Kirilenko outworked her opponent with a fabulous forehand in the fifth, bringing up break point which she fired wide by the narrowest of margins.

Each player saved their serve until the end of the set and while Kirilenko was now having a greater impact, Williams had effectively already done enough to go ahead.

Once again Williams started a set like a freight train, accumulating two break points in the opening game.

A lengthy rally ended with the American scooping the second off court and she responded with a cry of anguish.

Two games later she fell to the floor in a heap at the net having wasted one more break point, failing to put away the simplest of forehands at the net.

Playing through gritted teeth, Kirilenko’s fighting spirit enabled her to save a seventh break point of the match moments later as she sped from one side of the court to the other.

But Williams was relentless in her pursuit and eventually she wore the Russian down, profiting from Kirilenko returning into the net.

Winning such a lengthy and hard-fought game drained all the resistance from Kirilenko, who lost the next two in quick succession.

Williams took the sixth without dropping a point and three match points were saved in the seventh before she unleashed a stinging forehand in the eighth to seal victory.

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