Photo: Eisele/Giubilo/ZimmerSerena Williams (USA)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Serena Williams needed just 51 minutes to crush Russia’s Vera Zvonareva 61 60 in the opening match on Centre Court and march on to the Olympic quarterfinals.
The five-time Wimbledon champion, who is seeking her first Olympic singles gold medal, totally dominated the match, breaking Zvonareva three times in both sets. Zvonareva, the Beijing bronze medallist, only managed to win seven points on Williams’s serve.
The match was a repeat of the pair’s 2010 Wimbledon final, but the result was even more devastating for Zvonareva. Then, Williams won 63 62; today the Russian failed to get on the scoreboard after the third game. The Russian’s three-set defeat of Williams on grass at Eastbourne last year must have given her hope, but the nature of the American’s victory here proves again how much she saves her best for the big stage.
Williams broke Zvonareva’s serve in the opening game of the match and that set the tone for what followed. The Russian won her solitary game to get to 1-2, but after that it was all one-way traffic. Williams was too powerful, too consistent, and too accurate while her opponent struggled with her first serve. The American sealed the set with a forehand winner after just 25 minutes.
Zvonareva had chances in the second set but just couldn’t capitalise. She had two break points in the opening game but Williams held firm, winning the game with an ace. After that there were no more chances for the hapless Russian as her opponent raced away with the match.
Trailing 0-3, Zvonareva threw her racket to the ground in frustration, and even the non-Russian fans in the crowd did what they could to encourage her. Down 0-30 on her serve again in the last game, they gave her a spontaneous round of applause, but it failed to lift her and Williams got her first match point with a stunning service return. Zvonareva’s backhand found the net a point later and the American had won the match and handed her opponent the ignominy of a second set ‘bagel’.
Williams said she had been nervous ahead of the match and was surprised she played so well. “I think I played better today and even in my second round than any match I played at Wimbledon. Today I was just playing unbelievable. I felt good. I was relaxed. You know, I felt like, you know what, I'm here to have fun, I have nothing to lose.”
Williams has yet to drop a set in three matches played in her quest to become Olympic champion and she looks in ominous form. She will meet either Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki or Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova in the quarterfinals.
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