Williams, Kuznetsova, Safina advance

Updated: June 25, 2009, 8:21 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

WIMBLEDON, England -- Even on one good leg, Venus Williams is tough to beat at Wimbledon.

The five-time champion wore a strap on her left knee Thursday but still advanced to the third round by beating Kateryna Bondarenko 6-3, 6-2.

The tournament favorite, Williams has been hampered by knee trouble in the past, but there was no indication of a problem this week until she walked onto sunny Court 1 bandaged from mid-calf to mid-thigh.

Williams let out a yelp when she appeared to pull up on a backhand in the third game, perhaps because of the knee. Otherwise she moved across the grass freely, charging forward to pounce on short balls. She won 17 points at the net to two for Bondarenko.

[+] EnlargeSvetlana Kuznetsova
Julian Finney/Getty ImagesFrench Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova is trying to become the first woman since 2002 to win two consecutive Grand Slams in the same year.

Williams wore the strap again later when she and her sister beat Virginie Razzano and Aravane Rezai 6-3, 6-3 in doubles.

Williams was coy about the reason for the tape.

"Just for support," she said twice in response to questions.

Pressed about what was wrong with her knee, she said: "What happened was that I needed some support, and then I went and got the support, and then I wore it in the match. I'll be wearing it in doubles, too. So it's working out. I mean, I think all the players might start wearing it because it's so supportive."

Joining Williams in the third round were French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat Pauline Parmentier 6-1, 6-3 in 59 minutes, and top-ranked Dinara Safina, who beat Rossana De Los Rios of Paraguay 6-3, 7-5.

Last year's French Open winner, No. 13-seeded Ana Ivanovic, beat Sara Errani 7-5, 6-1. No. 17 Amelie Mauresmo, the 2006 Wimbledon champion, beat Kristina Kucova 6-3, 6-3. No. 18-seeded Samantha Stosur, a Roland Garros semifinalist this month, swept the last five games to beat qualifier Tatjana Malek 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4.

The No. 3-seeded Williams lost only six points on her serve, two on double faults. She slammed three aces in her first service game and finished with six.

She was just as ferocious with her returns. When one serve came at Williams slower than a lorry on the motorway, she eagerly stepped into the court, took a lusty swing and hit a winner.

That took her to set point in the first set, and she whacked another big return on the next point to win the set. There was no letup from there, and she swept the final four games.

"Everything was working for me today," she said.

The win was her 16th in a row at Wimbledon.

"Oh my gosh, that's a great statistic for me," she said. "I know a lot of people have done better than that, but that's a great achievement. I want to make it more."

Kuznetsova worked Parmentier briskly around the court and never faced a break point before wrapping up the win.

The fifth-seeded Russian broke twice in each set, including the final game. She sealed the win when Parmentier sent a forehand long.

Safina and Kuznetsova found the court assignments strange -- she was on Court 3, while former No. 1-ranked players Ivanovic, Mauresmo and Jelena Jankovic were also on smaller courts. Jankovic, seeded sixth, beat Iveta Benesova 6-2, 6-4. The only women's match on Centre Court was ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki's win over Maria Kirilenko.

"Of course it's not fair," Safina said. "Hopefully next match I'll play on bigger court."

"I'm fine to put me wherever they want," said Kuznetsova, who also won the 2004 U.S. Open. "They don't have to put me Centre Court. But this is a little bit weird. If you look at the schedule, it's not about only me. It's about Dinara playing on Court 2, Venus plays on Court 1 and girls who are not very high-seeded, they play Centre."

Not that the Russian is unhappy at the All England Club.

"In Wimbledon you have to expect anything," said Kuznetsova. "That's why it's special for everybody. It's special for me, as well. That's why I like it, because it's unpredictable."

Kuznetsova will play Germany's Sabine Lisicki, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over Patricia Mayr of Austria, in the third round. But for now, her attention is more focused on birthday presents -- both for herself and her mother. Kuznetsova turns 24 on Saturday, and she needs to atone for missing her mother's birthday earlier this year.

"I want to go shopping and see London. I need just two, three hours to spend some cash," she said. "This year I was so terrible. ... My mom had a birthday, I didn't buy anything. My good friend had a birthday, I didn't buy. I'm like, 'Yeah, yeah, I'm giving you a present soon. I am working on it.' I look embarrassed, so I need to go and get some presents."

Kuznetsova is trying to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2002 to win two consecutive Grand Slam tournaments in the same year.

Safina never faced a break point Thursday and took the first set with a hard forehand down the line. She wrapped up the match with a cross-court backhand.

The 23-year-old Russian lost in the finals of the Australian Open and French Open this year but has never been past the third round at Wimbledon.

The last woman to make the round of 32 was 17-year-old American Melanie Oudin, who beat darkness and Yaroslava Shvedova 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. Oudin, a qualifier from Marietta, Ga., is ranked 124th and playing Wimbledon for the first time.

"I'm still, like, trying to comprehend everything," said Oudin.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.