by Stephen Wilson
Associated Press Writer

WIMBLEDON, England (AP)—Five-time champion Venus Williams, back on her favorite grass surface, swept into the second round of Wimbledon June 20 with a straight-set win over 97th-ranked Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan.

Williams, who returned to action at Eastbourne last week after an injury layoff of nearly five months, looked right at home at the All England Club as she beat Amanmuradova 6-3, 6-1 on the opening day of the 125th edition of the championships.

MAKING A STATEMENT—Venus Williams of the US looks on during her match against Uzbekistan’s Akgul Amanmuradova at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, June 20. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Williams kept her opponent waiting for several minutes on Court 2, with Amanmuradova sitting patiently on her courtside chair for the 31-year-old American to arrive.

Once play started, Willliams took Amanmuradova apart in 59 minutes with her hard-hitting all-court game. She served seven aces, broke four times and had 23 winners to only five unforced errors—none in the second set.

“It’s always great to be back,” Williams said. “To play a few matches at Eastbourne helped me feel pretty comfortable here. All in all, I’m pretty pleased. I only see pluses for today. I missed being out here playing.”Amanmuradova, who has now lost in the first round at Wimbledon in all four appearances, is taller than Williams at 6-foot-3 and can hit the ball hard. But once Williams found her rhythm, she couldn’t be stopped, winning six games in a row and the last 12 points to close out the match.

Williams made a statement not only with her tennis but with her fashion sense—wearing a one-piece playsuit which exposed some of her back. The outfit featured cutout sleeves, a deep V neckline and a gold belt wrapped around the waist.

“It’s a jumper,” Williams said. “Jumpers are very ‘now,’ as is lace. The shoulders have a lot of draping. It’s a kind of trendy dress. It’s fun. The back is a like a cutout or peekaboo. I’m always trying to do something different and fun.”

Williams has fallen to No. 30 in the rankings, but is seeded No. 23—the same position she held when she won the tournament in 2007. Playing in her 15th Wimbledon, she extended her record to 69-9.

Williams’ second-round opponent will be Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm, who became the second oldest women to win a match at Wimbledon, beating Katie O’Brien 6-0, 7-5 on Monday.

Williams’ younger sister, four-time champion Serena, defeated 61st-ranked Aravane Rezai of France on Tuesday 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in Williams’ first Grand Slam match in 50 weeks. After serving her 13th ace to close the match, Williams buried her face in her towel and sobbed from her courtside chair. She was still crying as she walked off the court.

She fought through a mid-match slump before asserting command in the third set with her big serve and powerful groundstrokes.

That was enough to show why she is still considered a title favorite despite her long layoff after two foot operations and blood clots in her lungs.

“This is definitely a stepping stone,” said Serena Williams, who was 25th in Monday’s WTA rankings but is seeded No. 7, because of her past success. “To be competing again is great. It definitely is one step in my journey. And I always say life’s a journey, not a destination, and I’m not going to reach my destination today or tomorrow. But this is just a step for the rest of my career.”

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