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By Chris Oddo Photo Credit: Clive Rose/ Getty
Venus Williams - Wimbledon
(June 25, 2012)—Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams was upset in first-round action by Elena Vesnina of Russia today. The 6-1, 6-3 loss is Williams’ earliest defeat at The Championships since her first appearance in 1997.

Williams, who was diagnosed with the rare autoimmune deficiency Sjogren’s Syndrome last year, can still take solace in the fact that she’ll be competing for her fifth doubles title alongside her sister Serena later this week, and she’ll be competing in the Olympic games, which will also be held at Wimbledon, in less than three weeks.

Asked to choose which memories from Wimbledon the five-time champion cherished the most, a sentimental Williams couldn’t pick just one. “I would choose a lot of them,” she said, laughing. “I can’t narrow it down.”

When asked by a reporter what would motivate her to continue playing after the Olympics, especially given that she was struggling, Williams took offense. “Am I struggling?” she asked. “I feel like I am a great player. I have great tennis in me.”

Today, Williams was never in the match. Her legendary serve was practically non-existent, thanks to a first-serve percentage of 38 percent. And when she did make serves, world No. 79 Vesnina was quick to attack. The 26-year-old Russian won more than half of the points played against Williams’ serve, and broke five times on eight chances to earn the victory in 75 minutes.

Vesnina will face third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round. Radwanska, a two-time quarterfinalist at the Championships, notched a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia.

Sharapova Wins Easily

French Open champion and world No. 1 Maria Sharapova also had a breezy afternoon. The top-seeded Russian jumped all over Anastasia Rodionova 6-2, 6-3, hitting four aces and 23 winners to secure safe passage to the second round in 70 minutes.

“It’s always difficult coming in with no practice matches on grass,” said Sharapova, who will face the tricky Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round. “When Wimbledon’s on the line, it’s easy to get going.”

Pironkova, a semifinalist in 2010 at Wimbledon and a quarterfinalist last year, overcame an early deficit to Vesna Dolonc of Serbia 5-7, 6-0, 7-5. 

Clijsters Keeps the Dream Alive

Showing no signs of the strained abdomen that forced her to pull out of her Unicef Open semifinal over the seekend, Kim Clijsters opened her bid to earn her first Wimbledon title on her final visit today with a straight sets win over 18th-seeded Jelena Jankovic. The 6-2, 6-4 victory was one-sided until Jankovic rallied late to tie the final set at four. But Clijsters prevailed, breaking to love to close out the match.

The unseeded Belgian, currently ranked 47, will face world No. 90 Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic in the second round.

Kvitova, Azarenka, Serena Williams and Wozniacki to See Action on Day 2

Defending Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova will start day 2 on Centre Court tomorrow as the lower half of the ladies' singles draw plays its first-round matches.

Kvitova will face 6'3" Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan. The two have never played before.

Four-time champion Serena Williams will also be in action, against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic. Williams, who owns a 60-8 career record at Wimbledon, was defeated in the fourth round last year by Marion Bartoli in the early weeks of her comeback from a pulmonary embolism and hematoma which was suffered earlier in 2011. It was her earliest departure from the event since 2005.

Second-seeded Victoria Azarenka will open her bid to regain the No. 1 ranking from Maria Sharapova when she plays American Irina Falconi on Court No. 1, and seventh-seeded Caroline Wozniacki will look to overcome a tricky opponent in 21-year-old opponent Tamira Paszek of Austria.

Paszek, a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon last year, is fresh off a title run at Eastbourne and two spots from a career-high ranking at 37 in the world. Wozniacki, a former No. 1 in the world for 67 weeks, has never been past the fourth round at Wimbledon.


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