* Serena makes successful but tearful start
* Federer, Djokovic, Wozniacki ease through
* Stosur highest seed to fall, Isner beats Mahut in no time
By Martyn Herman
LONDON, June 21 Wimbledon has come to expect
fighting instincts and effortless power from Serena Williams but
the raw tears she shed after beating Aravane Rezai on Tuesday
betrayed just how much torment she has suffered since holding
the trophy aloft last year.
Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Maria
Sharapova and Li Na made short work of their opponents and the
John Isner against Nicolas Mahut re-match inevitably failed to
live up to last year's epic so it was Williams who captivated
the crowds in blustery conditions on Centre Court.
After crunching down an ace to earn a 6-3 3-6 6-1 win over
tenacious Frenchwoman Rezai, defending champion Williams covered
her face and wept before walking off to generous applause from a
crowd delighted to see her back on the hallowed turf.
"I never dreamt I would be here right now," said the
29-year-old American, who only returned to action last week in
Eastbourne after 49 weeks out with a foot injury and a pulmonary
embolism that left her on her death bed.
"I just wanted to win just one match here seeing as I'm not
playing doubles, it was just a really big win for me.
"It's been so hard and a disaster year for me, but I've been
praying and I have my family here and I just love tennis," added
13-times grand slam champion, whose older sister Venus also won
through on Monday after her own injury troubles.
Andy Roddick, another American who has become a favourite
son in this leafy suburb of London courtesy of his three final
defeats by Federer, also progressed to the second round by
beating German qualifier Andreas Beck 6-4 7-6 6-3 on Court One.
His nemesis Federer battled the wind and the awkward serve
of Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin to prevail 7-6 6-4 6-2 on
Centre Court, his usual slew of breathtaking shots helping the
fans forget the bracing chill.
"The first match at Wimbledon is never easy. I struggled to
get enough returns in during the first set," said the Swiss
third seed, who saw champion Rafa Nadal progress on Monday.
"It was tricky conditions, a lot of wind. It was really
strange how the wind came in."
Serbian second seed Djokovic, whose 43-match winning run was
ended by Federer in the French Open semi-finals, began his quest
for a first Wimbledon title with a quickfire 6-4 6-1 6-1
demolition of Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, crushed
Italy's Flavio Cipolla 6-1 6-4 6-3 and reliable Spaniard David
Ferrer beat Benoit Paire 6-4 6-4 6-4 but fifth seed Robin
Soderling and former winner Lleyton Hewitt laboured through.
As a stream of fans from across the world made plans to
leave the South London venue late in the day, French hope
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga livened them up with a typically energetic
display to defeat Go Soeda of Japan in straight sets.
Isner met Mahut in a sequel to last year's freakish 11-hour
battle of survival but this time the American shrugged off the
Frenchman 7-6 6-2 7-6 in just over two hours to leave the day's
focus squarely on Serena.
Almost a year after beating Vera Zvonareva to win her fourth
singles title on the lush green lawns, Williams returned to her
favourite stage having played just two competitive matches in
the 11 months since due to her huge health scares.
With an alarm wailing in the stands and spots of rain
falling from the cloudy skies, the first game lasted nine
minutes in which time Williams was foot-faulted twice, made
rudimentary errors and even had trouble with her hair band.
To make matters worse, Rezai came out swinging from the hip
and looked in the mood to cause a shock.
Williams, who had never lost a grand slam first round match
in the 43 she has contested, slipped 2-0 behind but soon found
her swagger and reeled off the next five games.
Rezai hit back to level after breaking in the sixth game of
the second set before Williams regained control and swept
through the decider in 25 minutes.
Top seed Wozniacki had no trouble in disposing of Spain's
Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-2 6-1, French Open champion Li Na
powered past Alla Kudryavtseva and her Chinese compatriot Peng
Shuai also went through.
Fifth seed Sharapova stormed past Russian compatriot Anna
Chakvetadze 6-2 6-1 and the two surprise women's semi-finalists
from last year eased into round two.
Czech left-hander Petra Kvitova beat America's Alexa Glatch
6-2 6-2 and Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova followed with a 6-2
6-1 win over Italian Camila Giorgi.
Former world number one Jelena Jankovic crashed out to
Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Australia's number 10
seed Samantha Stosur became the highest seeded casualty in
either draw after losing to Hungarian Melinda Czink.
(Additional reporting by Mark Meadows; Editing by Ed Osmond)