Defending champion Andy Murray handed out a tough Wimbledon lesson to Slovenian grasscourt rookie Blaz Rola on Wednesday as Li Na and Venus Williams struck early blows for the thirty-somethings.
Murray, the third seed, coasted to a 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 mauling of 23-year-old Rola who was playing just the 10th match of his career having only graduated from university in Ohio last year.
The British star eased to victory in just 84 minutes, hitting seven aces and 27 winners against the world number 92 and goes on to face either Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic or Spanish 27th seed Roberto Bautista Agut for a place in the last 16.
“It’s his first year on grass so it was tough for him. But he has a good game and he’ll keep improving,” said Murray.
“I took care of my serve for the majority of the match and I played well. If you can finish matches as quick as possible then that’s better in the long run.”
French Open semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis became the highest ranked man to lose so far when the 12th seed went down to Sergiy Stakhovsky of the Ukraine, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5). Stakhovksy, who shocked Roger Federer in the second round in 2013, next faces either France’s Jeremy Chardy or Australia’s Marinko Matosevic.
The colourful Gulbis then denied he had lost all of his $500,000 winnings from the French Open in a Riga casino.
“I went to play blackjack, but there was no word how much I won or how much I lost. They (reporters) asked me how much I lost. I said, A lot. I was joking,” he said.
“Next day in Latvia they say I lost all my winnings. My mother sends me a message next day asking am I crazy. I may be but I’m not stupid.”
Australian Open champion Li Na, a three-time quarter-finalist at the All England Club, swept to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Austria’s Yvonne Meusburger, hitting 33 winners to just four from the world number 38.
Second seed Li, 32, goes on to face Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic.
She said she was unconcerned about her 21 unforced errors. “If you want to play more aggressive, this is the normal way,” she explained.
Five-time champion Williams, 34, and playing in her 17th Wimbledon, defeated pint-sized Japanese Kurumi Nara 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 in a battle of little and large on Court 3.
The American, who is the oldest woman left in the draw, stands at an imposing 1.85m (6ft 1in) compared to Nara’s 1.55m (5ft 1n) and the difference in stature – both physical and sporting – eventually told despite the world number 41 breaking early in both sets.
Williams will face 2011 champion Petra Kvitova in the third round if the Czech sixth seed beats Germany’s Mona Barthel.
“Feeling good getting into the next round,” said Williams. “I think we both play a similar game, really go for it and she’s one of the kind of players that can get really hot and every time she plays me, she plays really well, so I have to be ready for that.”
Polish fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, the 2012 runner-up, also went through with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Australia’s Casey Dellacqua and next meets either Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito or Australia’s Jarmila Gajdosova.
Later Wednesday, top seed Novak Djokovic takes on Czech veteran Radek Stepanek for a place in the last 32 hoping to avoid the fate suffered by his coach Boris Becker in 1987. The German legend, who captured three Wimbledon titles in his career, is the only top seed in the history of the tournament to lose in the second round when he was beaten by Peter Doohan 27 years ago.
Djokovic, the champion in 2011, isn’t likely to fall into the same trap as he takes a 10-1 career record over Stepanek into their Centre Court meeting.
Stepanek beat Wimbledon champion Andy Murray at Queen’s Club two weeks ago but his sole win over Djokovic was way back in 2006.
Queen’s champion Grigor Dimitrov, the 11th seeded Bulgarian, faces Australia’s Luke Saville in a clash of two former junior champions.
Meanwhile, 1997 singles champion Martina Hingis appears at the All England Club for the first time since 2007 when she teams up with Russia’s Vera Zvonareva in the women’s doubles first round.
Hingis won nine Grand Slam doubles titles in her career but she and Zvonareva have a tough opener against fourth seeds Cara Black and Sania Mirza.
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