LONDON – After a week filled by a headline-grabbing, off-court tiff with Maria Sharapova and a series of apologies stemming from a magazine profile, American Serena Williams got back to doing what she does best.
Extending her winning streak to 32 matches, the longest same-season run on the women’s tennis tour since 2000, Williams began her bid for a sixth Wimbledon championship and 17th major title overall with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over 92nd-ranked Mandy Minella of Luxembourg on Tuesday.
“You can call her pretty much unbeatable,” Minella said.
And yet Williams, the defending champion at the All England Club, and Patrick Mouratoglou, the French coach who has been helping her during a 75-3 stretch that dates to the start of Wimbledon last year, both said there are areas of her game that could be fine-tuned.
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“After today, there’s so many ways that I can improve,” the top-ranked Williams said, “and that I’m going to need to improve if I want to be in the second week of this tournament.”
Really? How about some examples?
“Come on,” replied Williams, smiling.
Williams did not have too hard a time setting aside the events of the previous seven days, which included a lot of saying “I’m sorry” — face-to-face with Sharapova, at a news conference, in two separate statements posted on the web — over things Williams was quoted as saying in a Rolling Stone story. Williams made a negative reference in a phone conversation to a top-five player’s love life (the piece’s author surmised that was about Sharapova) and an off-the-cuff remark about a widely publicized rape case in Steubenville, Ohio, that was perceived by some as criticizing the victim.
“It hasn’t been a distraction,” Williams insisted. “I’m just here to focus on the tennis.”
The highest-seeded player to depart Tuesday was No. 10 Maria Kirilenko, beaten 6-3, 6-4 by 19-year-old Laura Robson, the first British woman to defeat a top-10 player at Wimbledon in 15 years.