WIMBLEDON, England – Five-time champion Venus Williams recovered from an early stumble in her opening match at Wimbledon on Tuesday to beat Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland 6-3, 6-2.
It was Williams' first appearance on Centre Court since the 2008 final, when she beat sister Serena for her second Wimbledon title in a row.
"I really enjoyed being out there," Venus said. "It's a special moment when you walk back as defending champion on that court."
Venus slipped five points into the match, one of several wobbly moments as she began her bid for a three-peat. She double-faulted in the opening game and had to erase two break points. She was passed the first two times she reached the net. She slipped and nearly fell a second time.
"It's grass," she said. "You're going to slip sometimes."
Williams found her footing, winning 14 consecutive points to help take a 5-1 lead. She had another spurt in the second set after losing serve for 2-all, and swept the final four games.
"Having won this title multiple times, you get that sense of what it takes to win," she said. "And I definitely have a good grip on that — what it takes to win this title."
Two-time runner-up Andy Roddick followed Williams onto Centre Court and beat Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-3. Roddick, seeded sixth, had only nine unforced errors and hit 46 winners, including 20 aces.
The new retractable roof again worked well, keeping rain away for a second successive day. Play took place on a cloudless afternoon, prompting an official on the club's public-address system to urge that fans use sun block.
"It looks really nice, the roof," Williams said. "We haven't had to use it yet. It's kind of ironic. But I'm very sure it will get some use."
Top-ranked Dinara Safina opened another bid for her first Grand Slam title by beating Lourdes Dominguez Lino 7-5, 6-3. Former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic beat Julia Goerges 6-4, 7-6 (0).
Kimiko Date Krumm, a 38-year-old wild card who came out of retirement last year, lost in her first Wimbledon match since 1996 to No. 9-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.
On the men's side, No. 5-seeded Juan Martin del Potro never faced a break point and swept Arnaud Clement 6-3, 6-1, 6-2. No. 12 Nikolay Davydenko beat Daniel Evans 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.
American Robby Ginepri won the first three games, then lost 18 of the next 21 and was beaten by 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt 6-4, 6-1, 6-1. The unseeded Hewitt and Roger Federer are the only former champions in the men's draw.
Williams prepared for Wimbledon as usual on hard courts back home in Florida, and didn't play a grass-court warmup tournament. But after her slow start she looked at home on the lawn.
In one game she smacked a backhand return up the line for a winner, then did the same thing from the other wing. Her second serve was unsteady, but she lost only six points on her first serve while hitting 29 winners and committing only 11 unforced errors.
"On the grass, I think you have the opportunity to make fantastic shots that are very entertaining and great plays," Williams said. "I think the game is more fast-paced. In a lot of ways, it makes it a lot more exciting."
Williams is only 6-4 since early April, but Wimbledon always brings her out of the doldrums. She's 51-4 at the All England Club since 2000, when she won the title for the first time. She's seeded third but the tournament favorite with London bookmakers.
Serena Williams won her opening match Monday against qualifier Neuza Silva, 6-1, 7-5. Serena is seeded second and considered the biggest threat to Venus.
Serena said she draws confidence from projections she'll be playing in the final a week from Saturday.
"I always feel like if people can believe in me, then I should, too," she said. "I always think about how I feel when other people that are top seeded are playing. I'm like, 'OK, they'll win.' So I feel like I should feel that way about myself as well."
Against the No. 154-ranked Silva, Serena lost only nine points on her serve, but converted only one of five break-point chances in the second set and struggled to close out the win.
"I could have played a ton better, especially on key points," Williams said. "That's a usual feeling for me from first round to the finals. I'm really insatiable. I always want more."
Serena's second-round opponent Wednesday will be Jarmila Groth, who is ranked 69th. Williams won when they met at the Australian Open in 2008 but had to search her memory when asked about Groth, who recently changed her last name.
Williams conceded it's difficult to remember who's who on the women's tour.
"I just know the standard: Everyone is from Russia," Williams said jokingly. "Sometimes I think I'm from Russia, too. I feel like, you know, OK, all these new 'ovas ... I think my name must be Williamsova."
Groth is actually from Australia, but five of the 10 highest-ranked women are Russians. Two others are named Williams.