Williams to begin title defence

Serena Williams begins the defence of her Wimbledon crown this morning after seeing rival Maria Sharapova progress from her first-round clash.

Williams to begin title defence

Serena Williams begins the defence of her Wimbledon crown this morning after seeing rival Maria Sharapova progress from her first-round clash.

World number one Williams won the French Open just a few weeks ago and now has her sights set on a sixth championship in south-west London.

Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella, ranked 91 places lower, stands in her way as the pair go head to head in the opening Centre Court clash of the day.

Williams’ first match at SW19 this year will come as a welcome distraction to the public spat with third seed Sharapova over an interview the American gave to Rolling Stone magazine.

Having felt negative comments about a fellow high-ranked player were about her, the 26-year-old Russian returned fire by taking a swipe at Williams’ love life.

Sharapova was able to take refuge from enquiries about her private life yesterday as she overcame first-round opponent Kristina Mladenovic on Centre Court.

Twenty-year-old French player Mladenovic put Sharapova under intense pressure in the opening set before the class of the world number three began to tell, resulting in a 7-6 (7/5) 6-3 victory for the Russian.

“I’m pleased with this performance,” Sharapova said. “The first matches on grass at Wimbledon are always really difficult and my opponent played extremely well. I’m really happy to be in the second round now.

“I knew my opponent was capable of playing really great tennis. She has such a big game and a big serve as well. I tried to take my opportunities in the tie-break because we didn’t break each other in the first set and I was happy with the way I stepped it up in the second.

“It was still pretty tough in the end but I’m glad I got it done in two today.”

Sharapova is joined in the second round by Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens, while the shock of the day came as fifth seed Sara Errani lost 6-3 6-2 to Monica Puig.

Last year’s runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska will be hoping to avoid that fate when she takes on Yvonne Meusburger today, as will fellow top-10 seeds Angelique Kerber, Li Na and Maria Kirilenko.

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