• Wimbledon, Day One

Venus falls at first hurdle as Sharapova rolls on

ESPN staff
June 25, 2012
Venus Williams cuts a forlorn figure © Getty Images

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Venus Williams crashed out of Wimbledon at the first-round stage for only the second time on Monday, the five-time champion falling 6-1 6-3 to Elena Vesnina.

The American, who is still searching for full fitness after Sjogren's syndrome - an illness that causes fatigue and joint pain - forced her onto the sidelines for almost six months after last year's US Open, only held serve once as she became the first high-profile casualty of this year's tournament.

Williams, who has not lost in the first round at Wimbledon since making her SW19 debut in 1997, improved in the second but the writing was on the wall when she went long to hand her Russian opponent the break for 3-2.

Vesnina, who had lost her opening match in nine of the last 10 grand slams, served out for victory, closing the show as a forlorn Williams netted a return.

As one former champion bowed out, another flexed her muscles, as world No. 1 Maria Sharapova confirmed her status as one of the red-hot favourites with a dominant win over Australian Anastasia Rodionova.

Sharapova had not played a competitive match on grass this year, but showed no signs of rustiness as she powered to a 6-2 6-3 victory on Centre Court. The Russian, bidding to win a second Wimbledon title, eight years after her first, kicked off her campaign with a love service game and never looked in danger of defeat as she raced to victory inside 70 minutes.

Although she suffered a brief wobble, as Rodionova broke when Sharapova served for the match, the result was never in doubt as the top seed fired an early warning to her rivals.

Sharapova will face a tougher challenge in the shape of second round opponent Tsvetana Pironkova. While not the biggest name on the WTA Tour, the Bulgarian reached the quarter-finals last year and the last four in 2010. She beat Serbian qualifier Vesna Dolonc 5-7 6-0 7-5 on Monday.

Kim Clijsters extended her final Wimbledon appearance as tiriumphed in the battle of the former world No. 1s with victory over Jelena Jankovic. Clijsters, who will retire from the sport at the end of the summer, broke the No. 18 seed five times en route to a 6-2 6-4 victory.

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