Serena Williams victorious on Wimbledon return

Serena Williams was forced to dig deep as she opened the defence of her Wimbledon title with a three-set victory over the spirited Aravane Rezai on Centre Court.

Williams, playing only her second tournament since recovering from a serious foot injury and blood clots on her lungs, finished strongly against the world number 61 to win 6-3 3-6 6-1.

But she had to show spirit, after being comprehensively outplayed in the second set by an opponent playing some aggressive tennis.

Rezai, who has won only five matches in 12 tournaments this year, has a father who is banned from the tour after threatening her boyfriend during this year's Australian Open.

She gave Williams a thorough workout as the American continued her comeback after almost a year out.

The 29-year-old four-time Wimbledon champion looked in for a challenging afternoon during a high quality first game lasting 10 minutes which saw her concede four break points.

Clearly possessing the stomach for the fight, Rezai came out on top from a 13-stroke rally and showed grit to prevail on the final break point with a drop shot having outmanoeuvred her opponent.

Williams, who had two large plasters positioned down the centre of her back, steadied herself in the third with an emphatic service game and then capitalised as Rezai's serve fell apart in the fourth.

Expertly finding the lines with a series of aggressive strokes, she broke once again in the sixth and was in full control.

Rezai's erratic serve was clearly her Achilles heel and although the 24-year-old from St Etienne steadied herself in the eighth game, she was only delaying the inevitable.

In the first set Rezai had won just 50% of first service points and that figure dropped to 42% on second serve, but she delivered the ball with far greater authority in the second set.

Taking two quick points, she attacked Williams' serve in the fourth game but the American showed composure to dig herself out of trouble.

Two break points followed in the sixth, however, and Rezai only needed the first to gain a crucial foothold in the match when Williams double-faulted.

A stinging backhand that hugged the line contributed to Williams' downfall and in the next game Rezai, brimming with confidence, hardly put a foot wrong.

The seventh seed was fading and upon finding the net in the ninth she conceded two set points, the second of which Rezai took thanks to another error from her opponent.

The deciding set was beautifully poised until the fourth game when Williams clinched two break points.

The first saw Williams net, and on the second Rezai, whose serve was suffering once more, hit just wide.

Soon she was trailing 4-1 and Rezai required something special to reel in her opponent but the Frenchwoman's composure had completely deserted her.

Repeatedly producing unforced errors, she was handing victory to Williams who finished strongly, breaking again before firing an ace to seal victory.

Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living