By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Serena Williams overpowered Tsvetana Pironkova in the opening round, much to the delight of the Centre Court crowd and on-watching sister Venus.
The wildcard made an stuttering competitive comeback, having not played on the WTA Tour since winning 2010 Wimbledon, and gained some revenge over the slim and sultry Bulgarian for beating Venus at SW19 last year.
The delicate 5’11″ Bulgarian is certainly no slouch on grass, having reeled off a string of fantastic results to reach last year’s Wimbledon semi-finals – her best run on the WTA Tour – and she tested Williams to the hilt in the early stages.
Williams looked lost on grass and her usual risk game plan failed to pay dividends, with unforced errors leaving her staring a swift exit in the face at 5-0 down in the first set. Although she then held her serve was unable to fight back and fell a set behind in what was arguably her worst ever grass court performance.
However, the comeback queen was not yet dead and buried so rallied herself back into the tie by playing a more consistent – and cautious – game against her talented opponent. She steamed into a comfortable 3-0 advantage and soon levelled matters to silence any would-be critics of her in the packed stands.
Fashion entrepreneur Williams turned on the style in the third and decisive set, though did not produce as many unforced errors as she tidied up her usual game plan determined to move into the next round, and served out victory at 6-4. Williams said:
“I love winning – I’m just here to do the best I can and I’m here not to lose!
“I’m just taking everything one day at a time and I’m not putting too much expectations on myself or on my game.”
Williams could face in-form Sam Stosur or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-finals and probably Victoria Azarenka or Marion Bartoli in the last four.