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.
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