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Venus Williams making noise at Wimbledon

LONDON — At age 34 and with retirement speculation swirling, Venus Williams again appears to be a factor at Wimbledon, site of five of her seven major titles. And there's a matchup against another former champion looming.

Williams overcame a slow start Wednesday for a 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 victory over 41st-ranked Kurumi Nara of Japan to reach the third round at a Grand Slam tournament for the second time in her past 10 appearances.

"I don't like watching it on TV. I want to be out there. I'm not about the easy thing. Life is a challenge. For me, when I leave tennis, I want it to be on my own terms. I want to know that I rose to every challenge. I want to look back with no regrets," Williams said. "Everyone messes up. Everyone chokes. Everyone gets tight. Everyone loses matches they should have won. But as long as you walked out there and you gave it your all, you can look back with no regrets."

Williams, a former No. 1 who is seeded 30th, revealed three years ago that she was diagnosed with an energy-sapping autoimmune disease.

A year ago, she skipped Wimbledon because of a back injury. She hasn't been to the fourth round at a major since 2011 at the All England Club. But she will return to that stage if she beats that year's titlist, Petra Kvitova.

"She likes to play on the grass," Kvitova said, "and I'm totally the same."

Williams fell behind 3-0 against Nara, then started finding the mark. In the tiebreaker, Williams again began poorly and trailed 4-1 before grabbing six points in a row for the set.

Nara, 22, spoke about this being a "very special" occasion for her, because she watched Williams on television "when I was a child."

A reporter asked Williams about being the oldest woman left in the tournament, and she jokingly pumped her fists.

"Wisdom has served me well," said Williams, who later returned to Court 3 to win a first-round doubles match with her sister Serena. "I've worn my sunscreen, so I haven't aged terribly. My knees are very tight, not saggy. And the crow's feet have been kept at bay. So I'll give myself an A-plus."

The sixth-seeded Kvitova played with her right leg heavily taped because of a recent injury but had zero trouble in a 6-2, 6-0 victory over 59th-ranked Mona Barthel. The biggest names sent home were No. 8 Victoria Azarenka, the two-time Australian Open champion beaten by Bojana Jovanovski 6-3, 3-6, 7-5; and No. 7 David Ferrer, who lost 6-7 (7-5), 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 against qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov.

Sam Querrey, an American ranked 67th, was at 9-all in the fifth set against 2008 Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga when play was halted because of fading light.

In all, the results were nothing like those "Can you believe that?" outcomes of the first Wednesday in 2013, when Roger Federer was among seven players who have been ranked No. 1 to exit the field in less than 10 hours.

The man who defeated Federer that day, Sergiy Stakhovsky, lost his next four Grand Slam matches. But Stakhovsky pulled off another surprise Wednesday, eliminating French Open semifinalist Ernests Gulbis.

Defending champ Andy Murray and last year's runnerup, 2011 champ Novak Djokovic, both won. Murray's 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 victory over Blaz Rola was devoid of drama. That wasn't the case with Djokovic's 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5) win over 35-year-old Radek Stepanek.

She's out: Martina Hingis lost in the first round of women's doubles in her return to Wimbledon, seven years after a positive test for cocaine during the tournament led to one of her temporary retirements. The 33-year-old, a five-time Grand Slam singles champion, received a wild-card invitation for doubles. She and Vera Zvonareva lost to fourth-seeded Cara Black and Sania Mirza 6-2, 6-4.

ITALIAN FINED: Fabio Fognini was fined $27,500 by Wimbledon for outbursts during his first-round victory Monday.

.FAST FACTS

Today's key matches

Men: Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Lukas Rosol; Roger Federer (4) vs. Gilles Muller; Stan Wawrinka (5) vs. Yen-hsun Lu; Milos Raonic (8) vs. Jack Sock; John Isner (9) vs. Jarkko Nieminen; Richard Gasquet (13) vs. Nick Kyrgios

Women: Serena Williams (1) vs. Chanelle Scheepers; Simona Halep (3) vs. Lesia Tsurenko; Maria Sharapova (5) vs. Timea Bacsinszky; Angelique Kerber (9) vs. Heather Watson; Ana Ivanovic (11) vs. Zheng Jie

TV: 7 a.m., ESPN; 11 a.m., ESPNEWS; 2 p.m., ESPN2

Venus Williams making noise at Wimbledon 06/25/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 9:29pm]
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