Serena Williams made quick work of Anna Tatishvili (6-1, 6-2) to get her pursuit of a sixth Wimbledon championship off to a promising start at the All England Club.
Williams enters the tournament in a similar position to the one she was in two years ago. She had been knocked out of the season's first two majors very early by her standards and talk about whether the field was starting to close the gap on her started heating up.
In 2012, she proceeded to win the final two Grand Slam events of the year and ended up winning four of the next six. While it would be tough to match those results again, it does show how dominant the American can be when it top form.
She was clearly motivated following her second-round exit in the French Open. John Skilbeck of The Independent provided her comments about putting in the effort to get back on track:
I'm going to go home and work five times as hard to make sure I never lose again.
If I couldn't play better I would be even more disappointed. But I know I can, so I know I have something to look forward to.
The match didn't get off to the greatest of starts for Williams. Tatishvili was able to earn four break-point opportunities in the very first game, with Williams' serve bailing her out several times. She was fortunate to hold and then started to find her rhythm.
Is Williams going to win the Wimbledon title?
Tatishvili, who recently started representing the United States after playing under the flag of Georgia for a decade, wasn't viewed as a major threat. She's a solid ball striker, but lacks the all-around game usually necessary to challenge the top-ranked player in the world.
Sure enough, once Williams survived that opening service game she was able to take control of the first set. It wasn't her best tennis and it certainly wasn't on a level that will be necessary to win the tournament, but that form isn't often required in Round 1.
A couple of breaks and some more convincing performances on serve allowed Williams to capture the opening set, 6-1. She had 12 winners and nine unforced errors. Tatishvili matched that error count with only four winners.
Kevin Fischer of the WTA Tour highlighted Williams' dominance in the first set of her opening matches at Wimbledon in recent years:
Serena takes first set vs. Tatishvili, 6-1; she has dropped a total of 8 games in 1st set of her last 6 R128 matches @Wimbledon— Kevin Fischer (@Kfish_WTA) June 24, 2014
The only issue was her footing. The top seed slipped several times on the slick grass, one such instance was passed along by Joe Fleming of USA Today:
That slippery grass ... Serena leads Tatishvili 6-1, 1-2 (REUTERS) pic.twitter.com/peoZFeTUCv— Joe Fleming (@ByJoeFleming) June 24, 2014
Williams' ensured there was no comeback bid in the second set. Using her massive serve to hold with relative ease, the only question was how quickly she could pull away. It didn't take long as she broke to grab a 3-2 edge and never looked back.
She finished the match with 16 aces. Tatishvili had none. Whether the match would have been different if the underdog had scored the immediate break is a mystery, but once Williams held it was pretty straightforward from there.
Tennis Now states Williams sends a clear message to the rest of the field by winning in such easy fashion without her best game:
Serena Williams, averaging more than two aces per service game, takes down Tatishvili, 6-1, 6-2. So the message has been sent...— TennisNow (@Tennis_Now) June 24, 2014
Wimbledon showed the star American hanging out with fans after the routine win:
Up next, Williams could play another American as New Jersey native Christina McHale takes on Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa. The top seed has never faced off against McHale and holds a 2-0 record against Scheepers, without dropping a set.
Either opponent would represent a match Williams should win handily. Things would get far more difficult from there, however. Alize Cornet, Eugenie Bouchard, Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova are all in her section of the draw.
Williams' cruised through the first round and is still the favorite. That said, there's clearly plenty of hard work left to do if she's going to win her sixth Wimbledon title.