Things not coming easily for Venus
WIMBLEDON, England -- The Williams sisters were, according to some, supposed to waltz into Wimbledon following extended health problems and breeze deep into the second week. Such is their talent, aura -- and state of the women's game.
It hasn't been easy thus far.
A day after an emotional Serena was extended to three sets, Venus, a five-time champion, was tested further in a three-set classic, prevailing 6-7 (6), 6-3, 8-6 in a three-hour match over an inspired, evergreen Kimiko Date-Krumm.
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Not bad for two players whose combined age surpasses 70.
With rain affecting proceedings outside, Wednesday's affair under the roof was the only one on offer for hours, which was just as well, since it deserved our full attention.
Here are three takeaways:
This was outstanding tennis The Williams sisters are notoriously stingy when it comes to praising opponents.
Venus had no choice but to compliment the 40-year-old Date-Krumm, who failed -- barely -- in her quest to become the oldest woman in the Open era to reach the third round at Wimbledon. Besides her usual "good match" at the end, she continued the conversation.
Date-Krumm sizzled at the outset using refreshing variety, taking the ball early -- including on Williams' often lethal first serve -- executing perfect volleys and half-volleys, and using a wicked slice. She took away Williams' time and disrupted her rhythm.
By the end of the opener, Date-Krumm and her large racket head produced 26 winners, with Williams chipping in a not-so-shabby 16. Their combined error count was 22.
How could Date-Krumm have lost seven straight matches this season?
Williams, owner of one of the biggest serves ever in women's tennis, lost the first set despite serving at an inflated 78 percent. That's because she won just over half those points.
Williams matched Date-Krumm, too, finishing with 45 winners, 24 unforced errors, and a key 12 aces.
"I think more than anything I've learned I'm very competitive. Just no matter what the score, very positive. Just keep fighting."
Was Wednesday good preparation or a warning sign for the 31-year-old, out for most of the past five months with an abdominal injury?
"Surprisingly, I'm not feeling any pain from my injury," Williams said.
These two are real athletes
Williams is considered a tremendous athlete, like Serena one of the finest the women's game has ever witnessed.
But give Date-Krumm her due. She did remarkable things for someone now in her fifth decade.
In a breathtaking point midway through the second set, Date-Krumm not only chased down an accurate Williams lob, but got there and instinctively threw up a defensive lob that landed in the corner. The hustling paid off, as Williams erred.
Twice in the set, Date-Krumm, a right-hander, used her left arm to produce more defensive lobs -- again winning the points.
"She took a lot of risk, and they landed," Williams said, though adding a bit of "luck" was involved. "I wasn't giving her easy volleys, either. They were all at her feet. She was on the stretch. She hits a ball that no one else hits."
A former top-five player, Date-Krumm should have made her comeback 10 years ago.
Venus can have her night out
Williams let her hair down for this one. Really.
Sporting a bun in the first round (a more routine victory), Williams took to the court without it Wednesday, and the result was hair down to about her waist.
As the first set progressed, the bun returned.
Venus donned the same discussion-worthy outfit, a blousy number complete with gold zipper. Her painted finger nails (silver) were accompanied by a silver ring.
She looked ready for a night on the town. Following her comeback, she can enjoy it in London, not back home in Florida.
London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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