<
>

French runner-up Dementieva ousted

6/23/2004

WIMBLEDON, England -- Serena Williams walked out on Centre Court with a diva's confidence Tuesday
and extended her winning streak to 15 matches at the All England Club.

Enjoying the oomph her serves and other strokes gain on grass, Williams opened her bid for a third straight Wimbledon title by beating Zheng Jie of China 6-3, 6-1.

"The most special thing is coming back as champ," said
Williams, who smacked six aces at up to 121 mph and saved all 10
break points she faced. "Win, lose or draw, it's a great feeling
to be defending champion at Wimbledon. I don't get that feeling at any other Grand Slam."

The top-seeded Williams wasn't her dominating self in a
tougher-than-expected outing against the 52nd-ranked Zheng, who
showed no signs of being overawed against the two-time defending
champion.

Three weeks after last year's Wimbledon final, Williams had left knee
surgery and missed eight months of her day job. There was time for
acting and clothes designing, however.

She looked shaky in her Slam return at the French Open, losing
to Jennifer Capriati in the quarterfinals. But Wimbledon changes
everything for Williams.

"When I'm on the set of a movie, it's exciting. I love it. I
love being there. When I'm designing a dress, an outfit, I'm really
into that," said Williams, who's ranked 10th but seeded first.
"But it just doesn't beat walking out onto Centre Court at
Wimbledon."

Wearing an all-white outfit with snow-white headband, Serena
looked every inch the champion as she took to the court.

Her movement was not as slick as it might have been but it was enough to see off Zheng.

Zheng, a baseliner, battled gamely but she was no match
for the power and match savvy of Williams who slowly edged
herself to victory despite spraying as many errors as she hit
thumping winners.

Williams broke in the first game of the match. She was
briefly threatened on her own serve in the fourth game but held
from love-40 down.

Zheng, playing at Wimbledon for the first time, refused to
be cowed but Williams was simply too powerful, breaking again
for 6-3 when she smashed a high lob into the open court on set
point after half an hour of play.

The 22-year-old American opened her powerful shoulders on
her next service game and crunched four unstoppable deliveries
at her opponent.

Zheng was powerless and running out of ideas. Williams broke
her again for 2-0 and then held, despite a glut of sloppy
errors, for a 3-0 lead.

Another break for 4-0 and the Chinese player's spirit was
broken.

She won one more game -- largely thanks to some awful
returning from the champion -- before Williams finally made it
past the finishing line moments later.

Serena hasn't won a Grand Slam title since beating Venus in last
year's Wimbledon final, and had an eight-month layoff after knee
surgery last August. She is bidding to become the first player to
win Wimbledon three straight times since Steffi Graf in 1991, '92 and '93.

In an early upset, sixth-seeded Dementieva of Russia -- a finalist at the French Open -- was bounced 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 by Sandra
Kleinova of the Czech Republic. Dementieva, who had 67 double faults during the French Open, served her 11th double fault on
match point.

Another Russian, No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova, was eliminated by
France's Virginie Razzano, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4. No. 17 Chanda Rubin
was ousted by Marion Bartoli, 7-6 (5), 6-3.

No. 4 Amelie Mauresmo and No. 7 Jennifer Capriati had their matches moved to Wednesday. The tournament was disrupted by rain for a second straight day.
Play was called off at 7 p.m. with 14 matches still in progress.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.