WIMBLEDON, England — Time and again after losing a point, Venus Williams rolled her eyes, slumped her shoulders and let out a shriek of dismay that echoed through Centre Court.
Facing the most experienced woman in the Wimbledon field — 40-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm — Williams was mired in a three-set struggle that lasted nearly three hours Wednesday. It was a tight, high-quality contest brimming with the sort of at-the-net, classic grass-court play seen so rarely nowadays.
"She doesn't play anywhere near her age," Williams said.
In the end, Williams, a five-time champion at the All England Club, pulled out a 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, 8-6 victory and reached the third round.
"She played unbelievable," Williams said. "I thought she had some luck on her side, too, with net cords, balls hitting lines. … Thankfully I had some answers."
Date-Krumm, who reached the semifinals in 1996, quit tennis later that year and came out of retirement in 2008, marveled at Williams' serve afterward: "Not only speed, it's on the corner. So it was very, very difficult to break her."
Rain prevented any action on the grounds until after 3 p.m. other than under the retractable roof at the main stadium. One match was suspended in progress; six singles matches and all men's doubles matches were postponed entirely because of rain and darkness.
After Williams, fans with Centre Court tickets saw easy wins for Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick. The top-ranked Nadal beat American Ryan Sweeting 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Roddick's strong serve was clicking again in a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Victor Hanescu. Other winners included No. 4 Andy Murray.