Williams, Mauresmo, Sharapova have no trouble

6/28/2006 - Tennis

WIMBLEDON, England -- The top women were in a big hurry at
Wimbledon on Wednesday.

Defending champion Venus Williams, former winner Maria Sharapova and top-seeded Amelie Mauresmo swept their first-round matches in less than an hour, losing only three games among them.

Williams crushed 103rd-ranked American Bethanie Mattek 6-1, 6-0,
in 51 minutes on Centre Court; Sharapova took the same amount of
time to dispatch Anna Smashnova, 6-2 , 6-0, and Mauresmo beat
Croatian qualifier Ivana Abramovic 6-0, 6-0, in 39 minutes.

Second-seeded Kim Clijsters needed even less time to reach the
third round: she advanced by walkover after her opponent, Viktoriya
Kutuzova, pulled out with a viral infection. No. 3 Justine
Henin-Hardenne beat Russia's Ekaterina Bychkova 6-1, 6-2 in 55
The one-sided trend continued late in the day with former
champion Martina Hingis downing Italy's Tathiana Garbin, 6-1, 6-2,
in 60 minutes. No. 9 Anastasia Myskina dropped just four games in a
6-0, 6-4 win over Cara Black in 51 minutes.

The mismatches didn't help the push for equal prize money at
Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam tournament which pays the women's
singles champion less than the men. Even British Prime Minister
Tony Blair said Wednesday he backs the call for equal pay.

Williams said the easy victories had "nothing to do" with the
money issue.

"We aren't involved in arguing the points of time spent on
court, sets played," she said. "That's a moot topic. What it's
really about is being treated equal as a human being."

As defending champion, Williams normally would have opened play
on Centre Court on Tuesday, but the match was pushed back because
rain delays washed out most of Monday's action.

She wasted no time Wednesday, overwhelming the 21-year-old
Mattek with power, pace and swinging volleys -- 26 winners in all -- and few sloppy errors.

"I felt good out there," Williams said. "It seemed like I had
all the right answers when she came up with some very good shots."

Williams, Wimbledon champion in 2000, 2001 and 2005, faced only
one break point -- which she saved with an ace in the second game of
the second set. From there, she won the last 11 points on her

Mattek, making her main draw debut at Wimbledon, had only three

"It was kind of hard to do anything," she said. "I wish I
could have stayed out there a little longer."

The match featured some unusual fashion displays: Williams
sported a stick-on tattoo below the front of her right shoulder,
while Mattek wore knee-high socks, shorts and a tube top over a
halter top.

The Minnesota-born Mattek said she bought the socks for $18 at

"I was going for kind of the soccer theme," she said.

"She looked really cute, very '70s inspired," Williams said.

Sharapova unleashed 27 winners against Smashnova, handing the
42nd-ranked Israeli her sixth straight first-round loss at the All
England Club.

"It would be kind of stupid of me to say I don't want equal
prize money," Sharapova said. "I think the public enjoy the
women's play as much as the men."

Mauresmo lost only 17 points against the 192nd-ranked Abramovic,
who was playing in her first Grand Slam match.

Mauresmo, a semifinalist at Wimbledon the last three years,
dropped only four points on her own serve and held at love in five
of six service games. The 22-year-old Abramovic committed 13
unforced errors, including four double faults.

"It's one of the greatest matches that I've played here,"
Mauresmo said. "I don't know if also the fact that my opponent was
not so good made it easy for me. I am very satisfied about the way
I played today, not letting anything, any point down. And also not
to spend too much time on the course is another satisfaction for