LONDON (AFP) – Five-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams shrugged off her bitter rift with Maria Sharapova to rack up her 32nd successive win with a 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Luxembourg's Mandy Minella in the first round on Tuesday.
World number one Williams came into her title defence opener at the centre of a storm for her controversial comments on a US high school rape case and for her dig at Sharapova's romance with her own ex-boyfriend, Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov.
The 31-year-old took out her frustrations on the hapless Minella, the world number 92 who has never defeated a top-30 player, let alone one of the calibre of Williams, whose French Open title three weeks ago took her majors haul to 16.
Victory was also her 75th in her last 78 matches, a run that stretches back to her shock first round departure at Roland Garros in 2012, the worst Grand Slam exit of her career.
Tuesday's 32nd successive win took her to within just three of the record set by older sister Venus in 2000.
"I never think about the run, I just treat every match like a new one," said Williams after her 57-minute win.
"It was special coming out as defending champion. I played great and I have some great memories."
Williams did not concede a single point on her serve in the first set but Minella, playing in only her eighth Grand Slam compared to the American's 52nd, at least had the consolation of breaking her opponent's serve for a 2-0 lead in the second set.
But she couldn't capitalise on that slim opening and Williams roared back, finishing the match with 25 winners to Minella's five.
Williams goes on to face French qualifier Caroline Garcia, who she beat in the second round in Paris, for a place in the last 32.