LONDON, June 25 (Reuters) - After the shockwaves that rumbled around Wimbledon on opening night Serena Williams restored a sense of order with a routine win to begin her campaign for a sixth title on Tuesday.
No current athlete in the world of sport can match the 31-year-old for reliability at present and the American, despite a brief blip, eased past Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella 6-1 6-3.
Rafa Nadal’s defeat by little-known Steve Darcis ranked as one of Wimbledon’s greatest shocks, but there was never any question of American Williams suffering a similar fate as she limbered up in the Centre Court sunshine.
Moving smoothly on the grass and firing some heavy artillery Minella’s way, the French Open champion clocked up her 32nd consecutive victory and looked every bit the overwhelming favourite to claim a 17th grand slam title.
Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic, aiming for a second Wimbledon crown, followed Williams on to Centre Court for his first match since his semi-final defeat by Nadal at Roland Garros.
On paper the Serb’s first round clash against Germany’s Florian Mayer, number 34 in the world, looked a tougher proposition than Nadal faced against the 135th-ranked Darcis, although two seismic shocks in consecutive days would be stretching the bounds of credibility.
Williams and title rival Maria Sharapova had become embroiled in an unsavoury verbal spat in the week leading up to the grasscourt slam and the American seemed glad to let her racket do the talking against world No.92 Minella.
She required only 19 minutes to claim the first set and although Williams dropped serve with a double-fault to trail briefly in the second she quickly snuffed out her opponent.
Elsewhere, while 18-year-old American Madison Keys was inflicting further damage on British hopes by removing Heather Watson from the women’s singles draw in straight sets, Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm was flying the flag for the golden oldies.
The 42-year-old, who played her first Wimbledon in 1989, crushed 18-year-old German qualifier Carina Witthoeft 6-0 6-2.
“Tennis is not only power, not only speed, not only for young players,” said Date-Krumm, who pulled out a teapot to explain her love of the beverage during her news conference.
“It doesn’t go on court though. It’s too hot!”
There was more Japanese success as Kei Nishikori beat Australia’s Matthew Ebden 6-2 6-4 6-3. (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)