Defending champion Serena Williams proceeded to the third round yesterday, but was still a long way from her formidable best, dropping the first set against the Romanian Simona Halep. There was no weeping when she finally prevailed 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, as there had been after her first-round victory, but her father Richard was eager to cast some perspective on her progress. Following the emergency surgery earlier this year to remove a blood clot in her lungs, he said that "whether she ever wins again or loses every match she plays, I'm just thanking God that she is alive".
Williams herself, however, was not so happy just to be alive that she refrained from having a little dig at the All England Club for putting her match against Halep, who has climbed the rankings some 450 places since undergoing a breast reduction in 2009, on Court Two. Referring to her and her sister Venus, winners of nine out of the last 11 Wimbledon singles titles, she said: "They like to put us on Court Two, me and Venus, for whatever reason. I haven't figured it out yet. Maybe one day we'll figure it out." Caustically, though not unreasonably, she pointed that the top male players never leave the main two show courts.
Elsewhere, there were routine wins for the Serbian former world No 1 Ana Ivanovic, now ranked 18th in the world, and for Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 French Open and 2004 US Open champion. Ivanovic beat Eleni Daniilidou, of Greece, 6-3, 6-0, while Kuznetsova, the No 12 seed, overcame Romania's Alexandra Dulgheru 6-0, 6-2.
Forced to work just a little harder was the sixth seed Francesca Schiavone, whose tournament so far has also included a lively first-round encounter with Jelena Dokic. The Italian, last year's French Open champion, beat Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, of the Czech Republic, 7-5, 6-3.
On Court 17, the 14th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova exited the tournament, defeated 6-3, 6-3 by her fellow Russian Nadia Petrova, once the world No 3. The big-serving Petrova is 29 now, and has slipped to 37th in the rankings, but will fancy her chances of again reaching the last eight, as she did in 2005 and 2008. Petrova now meets the Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko, who beat Sara Errani, of Italy, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.