WIMBLEDON, England – Defending champion Venus Williams scraped through a tight first set and then pulled away for a 7-6 (5), 6-1 victory over British teenager Naomi Cavaday to begin her bid for a fifth Wimbledon title.
As reigning champion, Williams was up first on "Ladies Day" on Centre Court as the All England Club enjoyed a second day of dry, sunny weather.
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It took a while for the seventh-seeded American, playing her first grass-court match of the season, to find her game and take command against a 19-year-old wild card playing only her third career Grand Slam match.
"She played a great match," said Williams, who hit one serve at 125 mph. "She put a lot of pace on the ball, forced a few errors by me. I felt confident throughout the match. I felt good out there. I always feel good on that court."
Cavaday, a left-hander with a world ranking of No. 197, pushed Williams to the limit in a surprisingly tough opening set that lasted nearly an hour.
With nothing to lose, Cavaday went for her shots and got out to leads of 2-0 and 3-1. She missed a chance to go up 4-2 and Williams rallied to go ahead 4-3.
Cavaday, however, didn't wilt and forced a tiebreaker. Williams was up 3-1 and 4-2 in the tiebreaker, but Cavaday got back to 4-4 with a forehand winner. At 6-4, Williams squandered a set point with a forehand error. She converted on the second when Cavaday couldn't handle a second serve and sent a forehand return into the net.
Cavaday held to open the second set, but Williams then reeled off six straight games to close out the match, and celebrated with twirls to the crowd.
Among those in the stands were her mother, Oracene, and sister Serena, the two-time champion who won her first-round match Monday. The Williams sisters, who could meet in the final, have won six of the last eight Wimbledon titles.
Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion, was paired against Stephanie Foretz of France on Court 1 on Tuesday.
Among the men, Rafael Nadal — coming off his fourth straight French Open championship and first grass-court title at Queen's Club — was up against 122nd-ranked German qualifier Andreas Beck. Two-time runner-up Andy Roddick faced Argentina's Eduardo Schwank, making his Wimbledon debut.