ON (AFP) - Defending champion Rafael Nadal made an emphatic start to his bid for a third Wimbledon title on Monday while five-time winner Venus Williams was back in the old routine with a dominant display.
Nadal, fresh from a record-equalling sixth French Open, was only troubled briefly by 33-year-old American Michael Russell as he cantered to a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 first round win. Russell, who has never got beyond the second round, broke for a 4-2 lead in the first set, but Nadal then reeled off six games in succession to take the opener and lead 2-0 in the second set.
Nadal was quickly 4-1 ahead in the third set and there was no way back for the world 91 as the top seed, who unleashed 35 winners, set up a second round meeting with Ryan Sweeting of the United States. The world number one is favourite to win Wimbledon -- and claim his 11th Grand Slam crown in the process -- but Nadal refuses to contemplate another famous triumph here just yet.
Elsewhere, Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych -- beaten by Nadal in last year's final -- stormed through with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 win over Italy's Filippo Volandri. French ninth seed Gael Monfils defeated Germany's Matthias Bachinger 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 and Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss 14th seed, beat Italy's Potito Starace 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Richard Gasquet, the French 17th seed, clinched a 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) win over Colombia's Santiago Giraldo. Like Nadal, Venus Williams knows what it takes to lift the trophy in south-west London and the 23rd seed wasted little time disposing of Uzbekistan's Akgul Amanmuradova, 6-3, 6-1. Williams, showing no signs of the hip injury which kept her off the tour for five months until her Eastbourne return last week, raised eyebrows with her choice of a loose-fitting, zipped-up, baggy outfit. But she was more concerned with focusing on a satisfying return to action at her favourite Grand Slam.
Williams now takes on Kimiko Date-Krumm who became the second oldest winner of a singles match at Wimbledon with her 6-0, 7-5 demolition of British wild card Katie O'Brien.
Date-Krumm, a semi-finalist at the All England Club in 1996 and who made her debut in 1989, had the honour of playing the first match on the new Court Three which has replaced the old Court Two, the former Graveyard of the Champions.
Vera Zvonareva, beaten by Serena Williams in last year's final, made a winning return as the Russian second seed defeated America's Alison Riske 6-0, 3-6, 6-3. Russian 12th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated China's Zhang Shuai 3-6, 6-3 6-4, while Israel's 22nd seed Shahar Peer went down 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to Ksenia Pervak of Russia.