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Serena's treats Centre Court crowd to marvelous victory, more notes


WIMBLEDON, England -- Spanning the grounds of the All England Club on Day 2 of Wimbledon:

• Serena Williams doesn't really count those two warmup matches at Eastbourne last week. Her real return to tennis came on Tuesday, on no less of a stage than Centre Court at Wimbledon. She said she wasn't impressed with her play in a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Aravene Rezai, but it was definitely worth a rave review.

Who else pulls this off? Serena needed 11 months to recover from a pair of foot surgeries, a pulmonary embolism and the removal of a hematoma from her stomach. She's nowhere close to "match-tough" shape, although she did a sensational job staying into top condition (with a lot of help from noted sports-fitness trainer Mackie Shilstone). Then she came up against Rezai, who can really crush the ball, and treated an enthralled gathering to a soul-stirring win.

Andy Roddick, a longtime friend of Serena's, could only marvel at the result after coming off Court One with a 6-4, 7-6, 6-3 victory over Andreas Beck. "I think one thing we've never really questioned with Serena is her competitive spirit," Roddick said. "I know I never count her out of any situation. I don't think it would surprise anyone in this room if she went on and won this tournament. I don't know how many other people you can say that about, if they sat out a year."

People constantly marvel at Serena's ability -- this also goes for her sister, Venus -- to show up at a Grand Slam looking rusty and actually play her way into elite form during the tournament. "That's just amazing," said Roddick. "She goes from spring training to mid-season in, like, three days."

• Roddick has put up with some strange questions in news conferences over the years, and he got a real beauty on Tuesday. He was wrongly accused of wrecking a Wimbledon for British supporters.

"You've been here a long time now," said a London-based reporter. "At one point you were the bad guy, upsetting Tim Henman."

"Actually, I never played Tim Henman here," said Roddick. "But (smiling) I'm still the bad guy."

"You did get good support today," someone said.

"It felt great. These fans have always been great to me, even when I was fake-beating Tim Henman."

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"Are you going to the stay for the John Isner-Nicolas Mahut match?" came another question.

"Stay? No, I have to play tomorrow. I can't stay here three nights."

• Routine stuff Tuesday from Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, each looking dominant in a first-round win. Same story for Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray on Monday. The early signs look good for a big finish.

• Christina McHale, the promising U.S. prospect from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., settled a few things in her mind on Monday. In a 2-6, 6-1, 8-6 victory over 38th-ranked Ekaterina Marakova of Russia, she proved her worth over a long, challenging match and helped erase the memory of her disastrous French Open. McHale was shocked and crestfallen in Paris after taking a 5-0 lead in the third set against Italy's Sara Errani and then losing it, along with the match, 9-7.

• Donald Young, millions of miles from the "promising" days, had a quick and awful Wimbledon. Up against 28-year-old Alex Bogomolov -- like Young, a touted U.S. prodigy at one time -- he took a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 loss. Young was often in a foul mood, taking out his frustration on ball boys and angrily slamming a ball toward distant courts at the match's conclusion.

• Alexa Glatch, a talented U.S. junior whose career suffered a setback in 2006 when she broke her left elbow and right wrist in a scooter accident, stunned insiders last week when she routed Caroline Garcia (17-year-old sensation of the French Open) 6-1, 6-0 in the Wimbledon qualifying. Regrettably, Glatch encountered 8th-ranked Petra Kvitova in the first round and lost, 6-2, 6-2.

• Most everyone predicts big things from hard-serving Milos Raonic on grass, and there's a fair chance he'll get to the third round against Rafael Nadal. Raonic, the Montenegro-born, Canadian-raised player who idolized Pete Sampras as a kid, had an impressive first-round win against Marc Giccelu (subbing for injured Fabio Fognini) and, as usual, spoke with great confidence afterward.

Asked if he was concerned about getting too much buildup, Raonic said, "I know I want to achieve a lot bigger things, so I've put the pressure on myself right from the beginning. I know people will say I've got nothing to lose, but I care a lot about it. I'm not going to go lose and just accept it. I'm not that kind of person. I expect a lot of myself."

As for his first match on the Wimbledon grass, he said, "I'm liking it a lot. I grew up watching Sampras win here so many times, and the tournament's been around for 125 years, so it has a pretty big meaning to me."

• Back in February, Boris Becker told reporters it was unbecoming for Andy Murray to have his mother, Judy, in his entourage, suggesting the two should cut professional ties as soon as possible. Judy dismissed the remarks as "nonsense," saying it was "a comment from somebody who knows nothing about our family life," but Becker hasn't exactly made amends. "I just question whether a young man needs to have his mother around all the time in his job," Becker told the Guardian. "I may be wrong, but I don't see the mother of Nadal or Federer or Djokovic out here. They don't have a real involvement in the games. But at the end of the day, the important thing is that it works for Andy."

• Mark Hodgkinson, writing in the Telegraph, on Venus Williams' lamentable, self-designed outfit for her first-round match: "She looked as though she had come dressed in net curtains ripped from the windows of her Florida home. It was the closest anyone has ever come to wearing a cut-off toga to this garden party."