Azarenka makes winning slam return, Ostapenko's run continues

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Victoria Azarenka made a winning return to the grand-slam arena but had to work hard for an opening Wimbledon win, while Jelena Ostapenko topped Aliaksandra Sasnovich in a topsy-turvy match.

Belarusian Azarenka is appearing in her first major since the 2016 French Open and it would have been a short stay had she not rallied from one-set down to dispatch Cici Bellis 3-6 6-2 6-1 in one hour and 45 minutes.

Ostapenko looked set to cruise into the second round when she bagelled Sasnovich in the opening set, but she won just one of the next seven games before completing a 6-0 1-6 6-3 victory on Court 18.

There were wins for former champions Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams, while Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina, Johanna Konta, Dominika Cibulkova and Madison Keys were among the other seeds to make it through.

Former Wimbledon finalists Sabine Lisicki and Eugenie Bouchard fell at the first hurdle against Ana Konjuh and Carla Suarez Navarro respectively.

 

OSTAPENKO, CIBULKOVA MUDDLE THROUGH

After a shock triumph at Roland Garros last month, Ostapenko's preparation for Wimbledon was far from ideal as she entered the tournament with just one grass-court win at the Aegon International under her belt.

However, the exciting Latvian managed to get the job done with an eighth straight win at majors despite a second-set blip, setting up a meeting with Canadian qualifier Francoise Abanda - a 6-2 6-4 victor against Kurumi Nara.

Cibulkova has endured a difficult year since ending 2016 by winning the WTA Finals. She scraped her way through the opening round, finally seeing off Andrea Petkovic 6-3 3-6 9-7 by converting her sixth match point in a third different game.

SOMETHING IN THE WATER?

Serena Williams is missing from this year's tournament due to pregnancy, while Azarenka is back in action after giving birth for the first time.

Azarenka was on court late on day one to begin her match with Bellis, in which she fought from behind to triumph and earn a second-round clash against 15th seed Elena Vesnina.

And the future pitter-patter of little feet were once again ringing out in the halls of a tennis tournament as Mandy Minella went down to Francesca Schiavone and then revealed she will miss the rest of the tour as she entered SW19 four and a half months pregnant!

 

WILLIAMS BATS ASIDE SOME BRA-ZEN QUESTIONING

Five-time champion Venus Williams came through her first-round match against Elise Mertens, prevailing 7-6 (9-7) 6-4, before she was faced with an unusual line of questioning.

Williams started the match wearing a pink bra, but confirmed in her post-match media conference that she was asked to change it during a rain break as it contravened the All England Club's 'all-white' rule.

"What pink bra? I don't like talking about bras in press conferences. It's weird," came the terse response. "I don't want to talk about undergarments. It's kind of awkward for me. I'll leave that to you. You can talk about it with your friends. I'm going to pass."

HALEP HAILS BRAVE KVITOVA

Halep, French Open runner-up at Roland Garros last month, is fancied to go deep again at Wimbledon in a wide open women's draw.

She got off to a good start, cruising through against Marina Erakovic 6-4 6-1 before heaping praise on another contender Kvitova, who is being widely backed despite suffering career-threatening hand injuries in a knife attack in December and began her campaign by downing Johanna Larsson 6-3 6-4.

"I think it's a great thing what she's doing. She's really strong. She has strong personality," said Halep. "That she's winning again on grass is normal, in my opinion, because she is a very good player on grass court. She has a big chance also here. I think Petra deserves what is happening now. She's a very good person. I hope that she's going to go through and win matches because she's a good person."