AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth|
Venus Williams found herself in a big hole against first-time Wimbledon player Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia before rallying to win Tuesday.
'V' avoids defeat
With sister's help, 3-time champion sends Wimbledon rookie back to Russia
By Howard Fendrich
Associated Press Writer
WIMBLEDON, England — "Go, V!"
"V! Take your time!"
"Hang in there. Keep fighting."
As Venus Williams struggled with her strokes Tuesday against a feisty opponent hoping to spring a significant surprise in her first Wimbledon match, a voice kept calling out from the third row — coaching, cajoling, cheerleading.
The words of encouragement after nearly every point came from Williams' doubles partner, practice cohort and younger sister, Serena — and they worked. Williams lost the first set, was down a break in each of the others and finally was two points from defeat before climbing all the way back to beat Russian teen Alla Kudryavtseva 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 and reach the second round at the All England Club.
"It's so important to have that support, because I wanted definitely to play better, and I was disappointed that I wasn't playing well," said the elder Williams, who won Wimbledon in 2000, 2001 and 2005, and lost to her sister in the 2002 and 2003 finals.
"The fact that Serena was there, my mom was there, too — they were like, 'You can do it.' "
She could, but barely. Still, it was one of few bright spots for the U.S. contingent at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament: U.S. men went 2-7 on Tuesday, the women 2-4.
Through two days of play, only three of 14 American men are left: No. 3 Andy Roddick, No. 9 James Blake (who beat Igor Andreev of Russia 6-3, 6-4, 6-4) and unseeded Amer Delic (who beat Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4).
At least that's an improvement from the last Grand Slam tournament, where U.S. men went 0-9.
"We had everything go wrong at the French Open," Blake said. "I just hope that doesn't happen again for a long time, especially as long as I'm playing."
Of 11 U.S. women at Wimbledon, nine have played, and four reached the second round, led by the Williams sisters. The No. 7-seeded Serena, who plays Alicia Molik of Australia on Wednesday for a spot in the third round, showed up at Venus' match with their mother late in the first set.
By then, her sister was in trouble, spraying groundstrokes all over the place at Court 2, known as the "Graveyard of Champions," because so many Wimbledon winners have been upset there. The list includes both Williams sisters (Venus last year, Serena in 2005), Pete Sampras in his final Wimbledon appearance, Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors.
The place holds fewer than 3,000 spectators, including standing room, and the seats for players' guests are courtside. So while Williams was having trouble early — "I didn't have any answers," she said — her father's repeated instructions to "relax, Venus" hung in the air.
After one backhand sailed long, she looked over to the stands, put her palms up and asked, "Why is it flying?"
At one point, her dad left his seat and climbed the stairs to a cafeteria balcony overlooking the court to snap photos. He knew what was up.
"All I saw her looking at was Serena," Richard Williams said. "I didn't see her looking at me. One time, maybe. I think Serena helped her a great deal."
Meanwhile, here's what Kudryavtseva was thinking when she was ahead 6-2, 2-0 and up love-30 on Williams' serve: "I'm here. I'm fighting with Venus Williams. Nice."
That's when Williams won five consecutive games. That helped even the match at a set apiece, but Kudryavtseva put the pressure on again by breaking for a 3-1 edge in the final set. Williams broke back, and heard Serena say, "This is yours."
Then came another tough spot at 30-all while Williams trailed 5-4 — two points from the end. But Kudryavtseva put a backhand into the net, and Williams hit a 119 mph-service winner into her opponent's body to make it 5-5.
Williams broke in the next game, then served out the match at love, finally allowing a smile to crease her face. Kudryavtseva walked off the court in tears.
"She stopped going for bigger shots and just started making balls and trying to move her feet better, I guess," said Kudryavtseva, who blew a 4-1 second-set lead against Maria Sharapova at the French Open.
Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, won her first-round match Tuesday, as did defending champion Amelie Mauresmo and No. 3 Jelena Jankovic. Among the men, three-time French Open champion and 2006 Wimbledon runner-up Rafael Nadal won, as did 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, two-time Grand Slam winner Marat Safin and No. 4 Novak Djokovic.
Kudryavtseva was among 17 Russian women who entered Wimbledon, and while she'll now focus on doubles, Tuesday's singles winners from the country included No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 8 Anna Chakvetadze and No. 11 Nadia Petrova.
Afterward, Richard Williams pointed to the recent success in tennis of women from Eastern Europe and took a shot at the U.S. Tennis Association, saying it's looking for future tennis stars in the wrong places — "in the white neighborhoods" and "not in the ghetto." Starting out in Compton, Calif., he raised his daughters to become champions. And there they were Tuesday, at the All England Club, one helping the other.
Wimbledon at a glance
WIMBLEDON, England —A look at Wimbledon on Tuesday:
Menís Seeded Winners: No. 2 Rafael Nadal, No. 4 Novak Djokovic, No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko, No. 7 Tomas Berdych, No. 9 James Blake, No. 10 Marcos Baghdatis, No. 11 Tommy Robredo, No. 12 Richard Gasquet, No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny, No. 15 Ivan Ljubicic, No. 16 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 18 Jarkko Nieminen, No. 19 Jonas Bjorkman, No. 20 Juan Carlos Ferrero, No. 21 Dmitry Tursunov, No. 22 Guillermo Canas, No. 23 David Nalbandian, No. 24 Juan Ignacio Chela, No. 26 Marat Safin, No. 28 Robin Soderling, No. 29 Agustin Calleri.
Menís Seeded Losers: No. 25 Carlos Moya, No. 30 Filippo Volandri, No. 31 Dominik Hrbaty, No. 32 Juan Monaco.
Womenís Seeded Winners: No. 2 Maria Sharapova, No. 3 Jelena Jankovic, No. 4 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 8 Anna Chakvetadze, No. 10 Daniela Hantuchova, No. 11 Nadia Petrova, No. 19 Katarina Srebotnik, No. 23 Venus Williams, No. 26 Ai Sugiyama, No. 27 Samantha Stosur, No. 31 Michaella Krajicek.
Womenís Seeded Losers: No. 30 Olga Poutchkova.
Top Players On Court Wednesday: No. 1 Roger Federer, No. 3 Andy Roddick, No. 5 Fernando Gonzalez, No. 9 James Blake; No. 1 Justine Henin, No. 3 Jelena Jankovic, No. 6 Ana Ivanovic, No. 7 Serena Williams.
- The Associated Press
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!