By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - It was Venus's turn to write the Williams plot line at Wimbledon on Wednesday as she survived a gripping three-set battle with 40-year-old Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm.

Men's champion Rafa Nadal also got his first taste of indoor grasscourt tennis but needed considerably less time to reach the third round by swatting aside Ryan Sweeting 6-3 6-2 6-4.

After a frustrating three-hour rain delay, last year's runner-up Tomas Berdych and British hope Andy Murray were exposed to the elements but proved equally ruthless on Court One. Berdych crushed Julien Benneteau 6-1 6-4 6-2 and fourth seed Murray cruised past Tobias Kamke 6-3 6-3 7-5.

With the light fading three-times runner-up Andy Roddick beat Romania's Victor Hanescu in straight sets to book a third-round clash with dangerous Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez.

Nadal will be spared the fury of Canadian Milos Raonic's sledgehammer serve in the last 32 after the 20-year-old slipped awkwardly and retired injured when leading 3-2 in the first set against Luxembourg's Gilles Muller.

Once again, however, it was the name Williams that had tongues wagging at the rain-hit championships.

On Monday it was a tennis outfit resembling a pair of curtains, on Tuesday Serena's courtside blubbing took center stage and this time it was the sheer ferocity of the 31-year-old Venus's spell-binding duel with a veteran defying her age.

With play delayed on all other courts, Williams and Date-Krumm, who on Monday became the second oldest player to win a women's singles match at Wimbledon, provided an early contender for match of the tournament.

"I thought she played unbelievable today," Williams, who returned from a five-month injury layoff at Eastbourne last week, told reporters.

"I thought she had some luck on her side, too, with net cords, balls hitting lines. I just thought today was a perfect storm for her to try to get a win.

"Thankfully I had some answers."


Date-Krumm made her Wimbledon debut in 1989 when the Williams sisters were still bashing balls about on park courts in Compton and you have to go back to 1996 for her best Wimbledon performance when she lost to Steffi Graf in the semi-finals before taking a 12-year break from tennis.

"She hits a ball that no one else hits. I never played anyone who hits the ball like this," Williams said of the gritty Japanese whose straight-line ball trajectory was a throwback to the days before topspin ruled the courts.

Williams certainly seemed bemused as she lost her first three service games to trail 5-1. She fought back to force a tiebreak, went 6-1 down, clawed it back to 6-6 but slipped behind as an inspired Date-Krumm grabbed the next two points.

Williams upped her game to level the match and moved 2-0 up in the decider before Date-Krumm launched a final attack, hitting shots unerringly close to the lines and raiding the net at every opportunity.

At 6-6, 30-30 former world number four Date-Krumm sniffed a break but Williams scorched a sublime backhand winner and sealed victory in the following game.

Play finally started elsewhere around the All England Club at 1430 GMT with organizers desperately hoping to work through a backlog of matches.

Fast-track victories like Nadal's will help. Indoors or out the French Open champion has quickly found the grasscourt groove although he would prefer having the sun on his back.

"A new experience for me, a good experience." he said. "But the tournament is outdoor, it's not indoor. I prefer outdoors," he said after his forehand put Sweeting to the sword in front of Prince Charles' wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.

Women's second seed Vera Zvonareva, runner-up to Serena Williams last year, rolled into the third round after beating fellow Russian Elena Visnina 6-1 7-6 although such is her low profile that she was not even required to give a news conference.

Wailing fourth seed Victoria Azarenka, whose sound effects have not pleased the top brass at Wimbledon, crushed Iveta Benesova and last year's surprise semi-finalists Petra Kvitova and Tsvetana Pironkova also advanced.

One women's seed to fall was Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the self-confessed Lady Gaga of tennis.

She walked on court wearing a white frilly jacket adorned with tennis balls but the 30th-seeded American was bounced out in a delayed first-round match by Japan's Misaki Doi.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)