Tennis: Wimbledon 99 - Golden Czech in peak form

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The Independent Online
JANA NOVOTNA proved yesterday she can still teach the teenagers a thing or two as the 30-year-old Czech chipped, charged and volleyed her way to a resounding 6-2, 6-1 victory over Taiwan's Shi-Ting Wang.

"It was a very nice start. It was very special again," said the defending champion, who was making her 14th appearance at the tournament, but her first as defending champion.

It was almost as if the No 5 seed had a point to prove - you don't have to be an 18-year-old with a killer serve and a brace of baseline bullets to get on in tennis.

One of the last of a dying breed of serve-and-volley players on grass, Novotna was rarely far from the net. She sent volley after volley tearing past the slightly-built Wang, who managed to pass the Czech only a handful of times.

Novotna took charge early, breaking service in the fifth game to go 3- 2 up, then consolidating her lead by serving a love game. The onslaught continued with another break and another convincing service game which ended with an ace to clinch the set.

The second set went much the same way, and three breaks later and just 46 minutes after her return to Centre Court, Novotna had completed a comfortable first-round victory.

And as if her own win were not enough, on Court No 1 her former doubles partner Martina Hingis was suffering a humiliating defeat against the 16-year-old Australian Jelena Dokic. Hingis ditched Novotna in the doubles because she was "too old and slow".

Novotna showed no sign of the ankle injury sustained just three weeks ago while playing doubles at the French Open. If anything, she was more sprightly than usual, springing around the court and brimming with confidence.

"[My ankle] felt absolutely perfect. Sometimes I still have occasional pain ... I had it heavily taped," she said. "But when you walk on the Centre Court again, and the Duchess of Kent is there ... everyone reminds you of last year."

Novotna will continue her bid for the Wimbledon crown with a second-round match against the Austrian Slyvia Plischke. From there she should have a fairly easy passage into the last eight of the tournament, where she could meet the American Lindsay Davenport, who is the third seed.

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