LONDON: Whether it was the swathes of empty seats to greet her arrival or her sluggish movement and frequently misdirected groundstrokes, there was little in Petra Kvitova’s first round victory to suggest she was the defending Wimbledon champion.
In contrast to No. 1 seed Maria Sharapova, who treated a packed Center Court to a regal display Monday, the Czech showed little superstar quality as she nervously moved into the second round with a 6-4 6-4 win over Uzbekistan’s Akgul Amanmuradova.
It is 12 months since the No. 4 seed upset Sharapova to claim the title, but she looked ill at ease in the role of champion as she strolled out Tuesday to begin her title defense.
It ended happily with the Czech saluting Center Court with a smile and a wave, but it began in a flurry of unforced errors.
“I was nervous,” she said during a news conference that extended to just three questions.
“It was first time for me to be as the defending champion of a grand slam. It was huge honor to come to the Center Court.
“Of course I would like to make everyone happy, but it’s not that easy.”
She looked less than happy in the opening games as she was broken early by the world No. 96 and was twice just one point away from falling a double break behind.
There was a hint of ruthless arrogance in the way Sharapova dispatched Anastasia Rodionova, but Kvitova was edgy and almost diffident. Her movement was poor and the mistakes were multiplying, but her superior power meant an upset never felt likely providing she could find her range.
At 4-1 down in the first set she started to put it together, and she won five games in a row to win the opening set. A rain delay threatened to cause the first appearance of the Wimbledon roof, but the giant mechanical structure was held back as the swift shower passed and Kvitova returned to court to finish off her opponent.
“It was lot of firsts for me today, but I’m happy that I stayed calm inside and [did not] panic in the important points,” she said. Next up for Kvitova is a second-round clash against Britain’s Elena Baltacha or Italy’s Karin Knapp.
Four-times champion Serena Williams made an excellent start to Wimbledon Tuesday, coming through an athletic first-round match against Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova that was tougher than the 6-2 6-4 scoreline would suggest. The Czech, ranked 62nd in the world, was a dogged, determined opponent for the sixth seed on Court Two, chasing down every ball.
However, she found William’s powerful first serve tough to handle, staggering backwards when the ball thundered towards her.