By Clare Fallon
LONDON, June 25 (Reuters) - Five-times champion Serena Williams dismissed her first-round opponent in less than an hour on Tuesday, opening her Wimbledon title defence with a 6-1 6-3 thrashing of Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella.
The American world number one, who rattled through the first set on Centre Court in 19 minutes, stretched her unbeaten run to 32 matches.
Williams, playing her first match since winning the French Open a fortnight ago, was given a brief fright at the start of the second set when she lost her serve to go 2-0 down, hitting a double fault on break point.
The 16-times grand-slam winner, who admitted being “a little rusty” on grass, swiftly regained control, however, breaking in the next game when Minella, too, double faulted.
Minella, ranked 92nd in the world and who has never won a WTA singles title, drew warm and sympathetic applause from the crowd whenever she managed to steal a point off Williams but could do little in the face of the American’s power.
The top seed blew one match point when she mis-hit a forehand high into the sky but wrapped up the win in 57 minutes at the second chance, when Minella put a forehand long.
Minella, whose supporters in the crowd included her 86-year-old grandfather Carletto, swiftly gathered her belongings and walked off court, not waiting for Williams.
The 31-year-old Williams, who will face France’s Caroline Garcia in the second round, said the match was harder than expected.
“I feel like I was a little rusty for some reason today,” she told a news conference. “I don’t feel like I played my best. I felt really upset when I lost my serve in the second set.”
Asked if anyone could seriously threaten her title defence, Williams said she guarded against thinking of herself as unbeatable.
“I never feel invincible, I always feel that I have to be ready for each opponent in each game,” she said. “I never become over-confident and I think when I do, or if I do, that’s the moment that I‘m most vulnerable.”
Williams was diplomatic when asked about a spat with world number three Maria Sharapova which has filled the tabloid newspapers after a remark she made which was interpreted as an attack on the Russian’s relationship with Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov.
Were she and Sharapova friends again, a reporter asked. “We’re playing on opposite days, so we don’t really see each other,” the American said before moving on to more questions about on-court matters. (Editing by Ken Ferris)