- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WIMBLEDON, England — On one point Tuesday at Wimbledon, Serena Williams dumped a forehand into the net and dropped to a knee, her jaw clenched as she let out a shriek.

On another, she pushed a backhand into the net while her feet gave way, yet again leaving her splayed on the grass at Court 2, the same place where her sister Venus lost a day earlier.

By the end, the younger Williams was screaming after nearly every point, good or bad — and, well, there were plenty of both. Her harder-than-the-score-looked 6-2, 6-4 victory over the 62nd-ranked Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the first round at the All England Club wasn’t perfect or pretty.

“Definitely a little relief,” the sixth-seeded Williams said. “I was letting out a lot of cries. I was happy to get through that.”

Yes, Williams got the job done, something she couldn’t say the last time she was at a major championship. Last month at the French Open, the 30-year-old American tossed away a big lead - nine times, she was two points from victory - and lost to a woman ranked 111th, the only first-round exit of Williams‘ career in 48 Grand Slam tournaments.

“I learned that you got to … keep going,” Williams said about that stunning defeat. “I was really disappointed. Obviously, I was extremely disappointed.”

In part because of a series of health scares that sidelined her for about 10 months, Williams has gone two years since the most recent of her 13 major titles, including four at Wimbledon. And even though she bowed out quickly in Paris, Williams is a popular pick to do well this fortnight.

“For me, when I’m playing a match,” Williams said, “I either win it or lose it.”

She’ll want to play better than she did against Zahlavova Strycova, who is 0-21 against top-10 opponents, 13-27 in Grand Slam matches and never has made it past the third round at any major.

Some other top players were sluggish at the start against unheralded foes Tuesday, when action was cut short in the evening because of rain.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal, for instance, trailed 4-0 against 80th-ranked Thomas Bellucci before turning it around and winning 7-6 (7-0), 6-2, 6-3.

“Fantastic for me,” Nadal said, “but I have to improve a lot for the next round.”

Defending women’s champion Petra Kvitova fell behind 3-0 and 4-1 but eventually used a seven-game run to take control and beat 96th-ranked Akgul Amanmuradova 6-4, 6-4. The match was halted by a 30-minute rain delay in the second set; when they returned, Kvitova needed all of three minutes to wrap things up.

“In the beginning,” Kvitova acknowledged, “I think I was nervous.”

Other winners included 10th-seeded Mardy Fish of the United States, playing his first match since having a medical procedure on his heart a month ago. The 30-year-old Fish hit 24 aces and defeated Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, 7-6 (7-1), then didn’t attend a postmatch news conference; a tour spokesman said Fish wasn’t feeling well, but didn’t elaborate.

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