Wimbledon sees no major upsets

Seeds flourish on grass

Posted: Wednesday, June 27, 2001

WIMBLEDON, England -- Venus Williams began defense of her Wimbledon title Tuesday with her first win in more than a month as order returned after Martina Hingis' startling opening-day loss.

Lindsay Davenport, Andre Agassi, Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt advanced with straight-set victories. Last year's surprise semifinalist, Vladimir Voltchkov of Belarus, was eliminated.

The performances of Williams and Davenport also signaled a return to form at the tradition-bound All England Club. They're the last two Wimbledon champions but neither has had an outstanding year.

Davenport, seeded third, beat Martina Sucha of Slovakia 6-3, 6-3, while Williams, seeded second eliminated Shinobu Asagoe of Japan 6-2, 6-3. Capriati, seeded fourth, and Serena Williams, seeded fifth, advanced Monday.

That's when Hingis lost to the world's 83rd-ranked player, Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain 6-4, 6-2. Hingis said later she was slowed by tendinitis in her lower back, her first mention of the ailment.

That loss improved Capriati's chances of getting three-quarters of the way to the Grand Slam. She's already won the Australian Open and French Open. The U.S. Open begins in late August.

Capriati ''has the best results, so you'd have to say that she's doing the best,'' Venus said, ''whereas the rest of us have been trying but it hasn't exactly happened.''

The list of contenders was shortened by the absence of three players because of injuries -- Monica Seles, Mary Pierce and Anna Kournikova.

But 2000 semifinalist Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia and 2001 French Open runner-up Kim Clijsters of Belgium advanced Tuesday.

Agassi, seeded second, beat Peter Wessels of the Netherlands 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-4 in his 200th Grand Slam match. He was runner-up in 1999, a semifinalist last year and won this year's Australian Open.

''I'm experienced enough not to get ahead of myself,'' he said. ''At the same time, I'm still trying to make sure I step up with the same intensity. Every year, it does get harder.''

He won Wimbledon in 1992 before top-seeded Pete Sampras, who won Monday, began his run of seven titles in eight years.

Rafter, seeded third, beat Daniel Vacek of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 7-6 (7), 6-3. Last year, Rafter was runner-up to Sampras despite being seeded 12th.

''Last year gave me that little bit extra confidence that I probably can do it now,'' the Aussie said.

Hewitt, an Australian seeded fifth, eliminated Magnus Gustafsson of Sweden 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Voltchkov lost 6-3, 6-7 (9), 7-6 (8), 7-5 to Mikhail Youzhny of Russia.

For the second consecutive day, unseasonably steamy temperatures heated the players and spectators but there was no hint of rain that usually falls during the tournament.

Venus Williams had little trouble with either the 91-degree temperature on Centre Court or the pressure of defending the most prestigious title in tennis.

''I don't feel any pressure to defend,'' she said. ''I'd just like to win again.''

She wasted no time celebrating, breaking into a big smile even before Asagoe's final service return landed long. Her last win came in the round of 32 at the German Open in May.

If Williams was affected by not having played in nearly a month, it didn't show as she won the first three games Tuesday.

But Asagoe, ranked 62nd in the world, won the next two before Williams went ahead 5-2. Asagoe served the next game, fighting off six break points before Williams wrapped up the set with a backhand winner.

Asagoe, who lost her ninth straight opening-round match, went up 3-1 in the second set. But Williams saved three break points and held serve for 3-2, then won the last four games while dropping just four points -- none in the final game.

Serena watched from the stands, at one point holding a cell phone to her ear. Their father, Richard Williams, took pictures.

Any chance of a championship match between Venus and Hingis ended with Hingis' exit.

''I think Jennifer right now is the favorite, definitely,'' Hingis said.

She said her own prospects dropped about a week ago when the tendinitis surfaced. Acupuncture helped, but there wasn't enough time for a full recovery.

As late as Saturday, she said, she thought about skipping the tournament but ''I didn't want to miss Wimbledon.''

Now, all she has to show for her shaky performance is another blemish on her Grand Slam scorecard. She hasn't won any of the last 10 events despite being seeded first in all of them.

''There are no excuses whether you're injured or not. If you step out there, you should play,'' Hingis said. ''I was just afraid to move.''

Ruano Pascual probably won't last much longer, but savored the victory that brought a wide smile to her face.

''I'm still dreaming now. It's unbelievable,'' she said. ''I feel very comfortable today out on the court.''



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