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Wimbledon: Serena Williams survives as Kvitova battles back

There would be no Court Two burial of a second Williams sister. Serena was forced into bouts of exertion by the diminutive Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, and though her win was rarely pretty, there was never a suggestion she might be following Venus out of the door with a repeat of her own first-round exit in Paris.

That must have come as a relief to the organisers since Serena was clearly seething at being asked to follow Venus into the boondocks. In metres and metaphor Court Two is some distance from the Centre Court experience and when asked to comment on the affront the four-time champion barked: "I'm not in the mood."

That was not the case out in the middle. Other than stare at the ground over which the ball had just scorched, Strycova had no solution for anything that came off the middle of Williams' racket. Not everything did, of course, and whenever the Williams timing faltered her opponent attacked with all she had, claiming two more games in the 6-2 6-4 defeat than she managed when the pair met in the second round in Australia. The defending champion Petra Kvitova started slowly, falling 3-0 and 4-1 behind before finally loading the cannon correctly to claim five games on the spin and the opening set. That, the crowd thought, would signal the end of Akgul Amanmuradova's resistance but the woman from Uzbekistan hitched up her shorts and got stuck in.

Kvitova had to reach into her extended directory of grunts to squeeze out the big points, but power paid in the end, sealing a 6-4, 6-4 victory. "I was nervous, my first time defending at a grand slam. A huge honour to do that on Centre Court. There were a lot of firsts for me today, but I came through in the end," Kvitova said.

The Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka lived up to her second seeding with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-1 mauling of American Irina Falconi. There was no relief from the baseline blitz to be had for Falconi or the spectators.

Formula One has found a solution to the lack of excitement in the sport with the introduction of Pirelli tyres that decompose after a few laps. What a pity tennis cannot devise a similar variable to spice up the spectacle. There was little to commend the game in this rout.

Belfast Telegraph