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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Williams, Agassi top second-day list of winners

By Howard Ulman
Associated Press

 •  See the latest Wimbledon stories and photos, profiles of the favorites, a historical photo gallery and more in this Associated Press special section.
WIMBLEDON, England — Venus Williams began defense of her Wimbledon title yesterday with her first win in more than a month as order returned after Martina Hingis' startling opening-day loss.

Lindsay Davenport, Andre Agassi, Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt advanced with straight-set victories. Last year's surprise semifinalist, Vladimir Voltchkov of Belarus, was eliminated.

Andre Agassi, seeded second at Wimbledon, won his first-round match against Peter Wessels, but says "Every year, it does get harder."

Associated Press

The performances of Williams and Davenport also signaled a return to form at the tradition-bound All England Club. They're the past two Wimbledon champions but neither has had an outstanding year.

Williams, who won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, is playing in only her eighth tournament this year. She won two of them but lost her last match before yesterday, in the first round of the French Open on May 28.

"I don't think I'll ever get over it," she said. "I don't think I worked hard enough. I deserve to be in this position but it's OK. I'm not doing that bad."

Australia's Lleyton Hewitt, left, and Sweden's Magnus Gustafsson seek relief from the 90-degree heat during their first-round match. No. 5 seed Hewitt won, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

Associated Press

Neither is Davenport, who missed three months of competition, including the French Open, with a bruised right knee. She returned as a champion, winning the Eastbourne tuneup for Wimbledon last Saturday, then won an unexciting match yesterday, and said her knee was fine.

"I was so nervous before I played because I just want to do so well here," she said. "It's always been tough for me the first round or two in Grand Slams. Things normally turn around."

Davenport, seeded third, beat Martina Sucha of Slovakia, 6-3, 6-3, while Williams, seeded second, eliminated Shinobu Asagoe of Japan, 6-2, 6-3. Capriati, seeded fourth, and Serena Williams, seeded fifth, advanced Monday.

That's when Hingis lost to the world's 83rd-ranked player, Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain, 6-4, 6-2. Hingis said later she was slowed by tendinitis in her lower back, her first mention of the ailment.

Alexandra Stevenson beat Tathiana Garbin, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Associated Press

That loss improved Capriati's chances of getting three-quarters of the way to the Grand Slam. She's already won the Australian Open and French Open. The U.S. Open begins in late August.

Capriati "has the best results, so you'd have to say that she's doing the best," Venus said, "whereas the rest of us have been trying but it hasn't exactly happened."

The list of contenders was shortened by the absence of three players because of injuries — Monica Seles, Mary Pierce and Anna Kournikova.

But 2000 semifinalist Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia and 2001 French Open runner-up Kim Clijsters of Belgium advanced yesterday.

This is only Venus Williams' 8th tournament this year.
Pat Rafter said he has more confidence this year.
Lindsay Davenport said her bruised right knee was no problem.

Associated Press

Agassi, seeded second, beat Peter Wessels of the Netherlands, 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-4, in his 200th Grand Slam match. He was runner-up in 1999, a semifinalist last year and won this year's Australian Open.

"I'm experienced enough not to get ahead of myself," he said. "At the same time, I'm still trying to make sure I step up with the same intensity. Every year, it does get harder."

He won Wimbledon in 1992 before top-seeded Pete Sampras, who won Monday, began his run of seven titles in eight years.

Rafter, seeded third, beat Daniel Vacek of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 7-6 (7), 6-3. Last year, Rafter was runner-up to Sampras despite being seeded 12th.

"Last year gave me that little bit extra confidence that I probably can do it now," the Aussie said.

Hewitt, an Australian seeded fifth, eliminated Magnus Gustafsson of Sweden, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Voltchkov lost, 6-3, 6-7 (9), 7-6 (8), 7-5, to Mikhail Youzhny of Russia.

For the second consecutive day, unseasonably steamy temperatures heated the players and spectators but there was no hint of rain that usually falls during the tournament.

Venus Williams had little trouble with either the 91-degree temperature on Centre Court or the pressure of defending her title.

"I don't feel any pressure to defend," she said. "I'd just like to win again."

She wasted no time celebrating, breaking into a big smile even before Asagoe's final service return landed long.