Williams, Safina, Jankovic, Ivanovic win

Updated: June 24, 2009, 12:56 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

WIMBLEDON, England -- Five points into her opening match at Wimbledon, Venus Williams slipped and went sprawling on the grass she loves.

The five-time champion recovered from her stumble at the start Tuesday and defeated Stefanie Voegele 6-3, 6-2.

It was Williams' first appearance on Centre Court since the 2008 final, when she beat sister Serena for her second Wimbledon title in a row.

"I really enjoyed being out there," Venus said. "It's a special moment when you walk back as defending champion on that court."

Williams' tumble was one of several wobbly moments as she began her bid for a three-peat. She double-faulted in the opening game and had to erase two break points. She was passed the first two times she reached the net. She slipped and nearly fell a second time.

[+] EnlargeDinara Safina
Paul Gilham/Getty IMagesDinara Safina has never been past the third round at Wimbledon.

"It's grass," she said. "You're going to slip sometimes."

Williams found her footing, winning 14 consecutive points to help take a 5-1 lead. She had another spurt in the second set after losing serve for 2-all and swept the final four games.

"Having won this title multiple times, you get that sense of what it takes to win," she said. "And I definitely have a good grip on that -- what it takes to win this title."

The new retractable roof again worked well, keeping rain away for a second successive day. Play began on a cloudless afternoon, prompting an official on the club's public-address system to urge that fans use sunblock.

"It looks really nice, the roof," Williams said. "We haven't had to use it yet. It's kind of ironic. But I'm very sure it will get some use."

As usual, Williams prepared for Wimbledon on hard courts back home in Florida and didn't play a grass-court warm-up tournament. But after her slow start she looked at home on the lawn.

In one game she smacked a backhand return up the line for a winner and then did the same thing from the other wing. Her second serve was unsteady, but she lost only six points on her first serve while hitting 29 winners and committing only 11 unforced errors.

"On the grass, I think you have the opportunity to make fantastic shots that are very entertaining and great plays," Williams said. "I think the game is more fast-paced. In a lot of ways, it makes it a lot more exciting."

Williams is only 5-5 since early April, but Wimbledon always brings her out of the doldrums. She's 51-4 at the All England Club since 2000, when she won the title for the first time. She's seeded third but the tournament favorite with London bookmakers.

While Williams earned her 59th victory at Wimbledon, fellow American Melanie Oudin made a successful tournament debut. The 17-year-old from Marietta, Ga., earned her first win in a major event by beating No. 29-seeded Sybille Bammer 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

"I was really nervous most of the match today, but finally in the third I started to calm down," Oudin said. "I'm really glad I pulled it out."

Top-seeded Dinara Safina moved into the second round with a straight-sets victory over Lourdes Dominguez Lino.

Still seeking her first Grand Slam title, Safina won 7-5, 6-3. It was the Russian's first match at a major tournament since losing the French Open final this month. Safina is 0-3 in Grand Slam finals.

"My dream was to become No. 1 as a kid. And now, like, to hold a trophy from the Grand Slam -- it's another big dream," said Safina. "I know that I have potential. I know that I have everything to have it."

The younger sister of two-time major champion Marat Safin has never been past the third round at the All England Club. She's fared better elsewhere, reaching the past two finals at Roland Garros, along with this year's final at the Australian Open.

"Some people need one final, and other people need, like, three finals to get that feeling that you feel confident," 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina said. "Dinara just needs more Grand Slam finals to win one of them. It will happen in time."

Against the 72nd-ranked Dominguez Lino, who dropped to 0-3 at Wimbledon for her career, Safina never seemed to be in much trouble, although this was not an altogether easy victory.

Safina needed 55 minutes to put away the first set, which she did with an overhead smash that was particularly violent, so much so that even she made a face, as though to say, "Wow. Not bad, huh?"

Other shots did not go so well. In the opening game of the second set, Safina missed a forehand and let out a high-pitched scream before covering her face with her left palm. Later, two points from victory at 5-2, 30-all, Safina missed an overhead by about five feet, rolled her eyes and grimaced. She was broken there but broke right back, ending the match with a runaround forehand return.

Occasionally, Safina winced because of her knee. She has tendinitis that has bothered her off and on since April and has been taking medicine to reduce the pain and swelling.

"At one moment, I just could not go down anymore on my knee, it was so painful," Safina said. "I mean, hopefully I can play. It's nothing that's killing me."

This year's winner at Roland Garros, Svetlana Kuznetsova, defeated Akiko Morigami 6-3, 7-6 (1).

Ana Ivanovic overcome Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic in three sets after saving two match points to reach the second round.

Ivanovic rallied from a poor start to win 5-7, 6-2, 8-6. The former No. 1 from Serbia broke to lead 5-4 in the final set but failed to serve out the match on her first attempt. In her next service game, she saved two match points before holding with an ace.

She then broke at love for a 7-6 lead and sealed the win when Hradecka's return went wide.

Jelena Jankovic reached the second round by beating Julia Goerges 6-4, 7-6 (0).

The former No. 1 was pushed by Goerges in the second set but cruised in the tiebreak after a number of unforced errors from the German. Goerges missed an overhead smash at the net to give Jankovic a 4-0 lead and then missed a forehand return on match point.

The sixth-seeded Jankovic struggled with her serve in the first set but saved seven of eight break points while breaking Goerges twice.

Jankovic has fallen to No. 6 in the rankings and is looking for her first Grand Slam title. She reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon the last three years.

No. 17 Amelie Mauresmo, the 2006 champion, defeated Melinda Czink 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.

Kimiko Date Krumm, a 38-year-old wild card who came out of retirement last year, lost in her first Wimbledon match since 1996 to No. 9-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.

Wimbledon set a single-day attendance record on Tuesday with 45,955 fans.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.