Venus through after epic battle

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American Venus Williams hits a return to Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan during their second-round match at Wimbledon yesterday.

Venus Williams recovered from a shaky start to beat 40-year-old Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-7 (6), 6-3, 8-6 in a thrilling second-round match at Wimbledon in London yesterday.

"It was tough, she came out and I couldn't get in the game," Williams, who only returned to action recently after months out with an abdominal injury, said in a televised interview.

"She plays so well, every ball hits the baseline. I give her a lot of credit and I'm delighted to come through. I feel like I am playing better than Eastbourne, I'm moving better and I'm not feeling any pain at the moment."

Date-Krumm surged into a 5-1 lead under the Centre Court roof, early rain having forced a delay in the start of play on other outside courts, and although American Williams fought back to force a tiebreak, the Japanese won it 8-6 on her fifth set point.

Williams, a five-time Wimbledon champion but seeded 23rd this year following injury problems, improved as the match wore on but Date-Krumm refused to lie down.

Williams made the decisive break in the 14th game of the final set, clinching victory when Date-Krumm sent a backhand wide.

Date-Krumm became the second oldest woman to reach the second round at Wimbledon in the Open era when she defeated Briton Katie O'Brien in her opening match.

On Tuesday, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova and Li Na made short work of their opponents so it was left to Venus' younger sister Serena to captivate the crowds in blustery conditions on Centre Court.

After crunching down an ace to earn a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over tenacious Frenchwoman Rezai, the defending champion covered her face and wept before walking off to generous applause from a crowd delighted to see her back on the hallowed turf.

"I never dreamt I would be here right now," said the 29-year-old American, who only returned to action last week in Eastbourne after 49 weeks out with a foot injury and a pulmonary embolism that left her on her death bed. "I just wanted to win just one match here seeing as I'm not playing doubles, it was just a really big win for me."

Federer battled the wind and the awkward serve of Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin to prevail 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-2, also on Centre Court.

Serbian second seed Djokovic, whose 43-match winning run was ended by Federer in the French Open semifinals, began his quest for a first Wimbledon title with a quickfire 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 demolition of Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, crushed Italy's Flavio Cipolla 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 and Spaniard David Ferrer beat Benoit Paire of France 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Top seed Wozniacki had no trouble in disposing of Spain's Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-2, 6-1, French Open champion Li Na powered past Alla Kudryavtseva and her Chinese compatriot Peng Shuai also went through.

Fifth seed Sharapova stormed past Russian compatriot Anna Chakvetadze 6-2, 6-1.

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