Serena shines for First Lady
Serena Williams (AP Photo)
London - Wimbledon champion Serena Williams marked the return of the Olympics to the All England Club with a brutal 6-3, 6-1 demolition of Jelena Jankovic on Saturday.
Serena, who was cheered on from the players' box by US First Lady Michelle Obama, ended a two-year Grand Slam title drought with her Wimbledon final victory over Agnieszka Radwanska 21 days ago and the American had promised that would be the springboard to even greater success.
On this evidence the 14-time Grand Slam winner looks in the mood to add Olympic singles gold to the two doubles golds she won with sister Venus.
The only danger to Serena's progress against the out-classed Jankovic appeared to be the recently reseeded grass on Centre Court which caused the players to lose their footing several times.
But it was fitting that a Wimbledon legend like Serena should deliver such a dominant display of grasscourt tennis as the Olympics returned to south-west London for the first time since 1908.
The genteel surroundings of Wimbledon have a well-earned reputation for a rather sedate atmosphere, but there was a sense the famous old venue has let its hair down for the Olympics.
A concert by British band the Pet Shop Boys on Henman Hill opened the event, and all the courts were decked out in the purple Olympic livery, while players were allowed to break the Wimbledon tradition of wearing all-white and instead donned the colours of their nations.
Former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych was the first big-name to tumble in the men's singles as the Czech sixth seed lost 6-4, 6-4 to Steve Darcis, an unheralded Belgian ranked 75th in the world.
Berdych, beaten by Rafael Nadal in the 2010 Wimbledon final, suffered a shock Wimbledon first round exit this year against Ernests Gulbis and Darcis took advantage of another error-strewn display from the Czech to seal his first Olympic win and a last 32 meeting with Colombia's Santiago Giraldo.
"It's an amazing feeling," Darcis said. "When you're young you watch Pete Sampras playing on Centre Court and you think maybe one day. Today it was my day. I played a great match."
Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic defeated former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian of Argentina 6-3, 6-4, while John Isner, the 6ft 9in American 10th seed, won his little and large battle with Olivier Rochus, defeating the 5ft 6in Belgian 7-6 (7/1), 6-4.
In the women's singles, Belgium's Kim Clijsters enjoyed her first taste of the Olympics as the four-time Grand Slam champion moved into the second round with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Italy's Roberta Vinci.
The 29-year-old, who next faces Australian fifth seed Samantha Stosur or Carla Navarro Suarez of Spain, said: "It's like a virus, it spreads. When you see all the other athletes from your country and the people who follow it, it's hard not to get into it."
Serbian 11th seed Ana Ivanovic, like Clijsters a former world number one, also won on her Olympic debut, beating American Christina McHale 6-4, 7-5.
Vera Zvonareva, a 2008 bronze medalist, kicked off her campaign with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 win against Sweden's Sofia Arvidsson.