LONDON: A pumped-up Serena Williams kicked off her campaign for a sixth Wimbledon singles title with a straight sets victory on Monday.
The world number one, who is also chasing a rare calendar Grand Slam having already won the 2015 Australian and French Opens, began her bid for the third of the four majors with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Russian qualifier Margarita Gasparyan.
Williams has five Wimbledon titles to her name but her last two appearances at the All England Club ended in misery as she crashed out in the fourth and third rounds.
She now faces Hungary s Timea Babos, the world number 93, in the second round on Wednesday.
“It feels good so far. Just one match but it feels good just to be back here at Wimbledon. I ve done so well here in the past so I ll always have so many good memories here,” Williams said.
Twenty-year-old Gasparyan, who had never won a tour-level match in three previous attempts, came through three rounds of qualifying without dropping a set and was making her first-ever appearance at Wimbledon.
But the Russian world number 113 did not look overwhelmed by her All England Club debut on the 11,000-seater Court One.
Eyebrows were raised as Serena lost her serve in the opening game but in truth the 33-year-old American was always in control.
The immaculate Wimbledon lawns are often slippery on the first day and Williams tumbled behind the baseline at 2-3 down in the first set. However, she recovered to win the game, breaking Gasparyan back.
Williams has 20 Grand Slam titles to her name but was giving it the full array of fist pumps as she came through this opening encounter with a first-timer — and even received a code violation for an audible obscenity in the first set.
“I knew she would be a good player. I can t say I thought she would be that good!” Williams said.
“When you re winning three matches in qualifying you re really ready to go the distance and when she s playing with me she s got nothing to lose.
“She came out so fast I was like, oh my God, if I don t start I m going to be down a set and I m tired of being down a set so I just really tried to get out.”
The Muscovite had a chance to shake up the second set when she had three break points at 3-1 down but Williams called on her experience to rescue the game.
Williams, held all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously in 2002-2003 but has never won the Wimbledon, Australian, French and US Open titles all in the same season.
Only Maureen Connolly (1953), Margaret Court (1970) and Steffi Graf (1988) have achieved the calendar Grand Slam feat.