London: Women’s top seed Ash Barty cleared a tricky opening Wimbledon hurdle as she beat Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1 6-7(1) 6-1 on Tuesday in a first-round match tailor-made for tennis purists.
The Australian, sporting a 1970s-inspired outfit paying homage to compatriot Evonne Goolagong’s trailblazing first Wimbledon title 50 years ago, played beautifully for two sets in her first grasscourt match for two years.
But Spaniard Suarez Navarro, who in April announced she had been given the all-clear following treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer, played a full part in an absorbing spectacle under the Centre Court’s sliding roof.
Barty used her all-court game, full of all manner of spins and angles, to great effect as she started and finished the match in dominant fashion.
But Suarez Navarro provided flashes of her signature single-handed backhand to help her push Barty to a deciding set after the Australian wavered when serving for the match at 5-4.
Suarez Navarro’s lack of matches - her French Open first-round defeat was her only other appearance this year - caught up with her in the end as Barty raced away to victory.
Five-times champion Venus Williams, playing as a wildcard in her 23rd Wimbledon, showed vintage form to beat Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu 7-5 4-6 6-3 and reach the second round on Tuesday.
The oldest woman in the draw at 41, Williams had not won a match since reaching the second round at the Australian Open in February but showed she was far from finished on her return to a favourite place.
The Court Three clash of veterans, one of several held over due to rain on Monday, was the 271st victory of a remarkable Grand Slam career for Williams and, despite serving 10 aces, did not come easy.
Slew of aces
Fourth seed Alexander Zverev of Germany began his quest for a maiden Grand Slam title with an easy 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 win over Dutch qualifier Tallon Griekspoor on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old slammed 20 aces and won 77 per cent of his first-service points to progress into the second round in 94 minutes.
In the French Open semi-finals this month, Zverev had lost to Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lost his first-round match to American Frances Tiafoe on Monday.
Alexander Zverev (GER x4) bt Tallon Griekspoor (NED) 6-3, 6-4, 6-1
Sebastian Korda (USA) bt Alex De Minaur (AUS x15) 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5)
Diego Schwartzman (ARG x9) bt Benont Paire (FRA) 6-3, 6-4, 6-0
Fabio Fognini (ITA x26) bt Albert Ramos Vinolas (ESP) 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-4
Dan Evans (GBR x22) bt Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 7-5
Ashleigh Barty (AUS x1) bt Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) 6-1, 6-7 (1/7), 6-1
Venus Williams (USA) bt Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROM) 7-5, 4-6, 6-3
Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) bt Kaia Kanepi (EST) 6-4, 6-2
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x8) bt Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 7-5, 6-4
Ons Jabeur (TUN x21) bt Rebecca Peterson (SWE) 6-2, 6-1
Maria Sakkari (GRE x15) bt Arantxa Rus (NED) 6-1, 6-1