By Howard Fendrich / The Associated Press
LONDON—Leave all the chatter about Serena Williams’s pursuit of her 22nd major singles trophy to others.
Williams and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, do not discuss that number.
“We don’t talk about it all. Zero,” Mouratoglou said on Tuesday at Wimbledon after watching Williams win her first-round match.
Why is that?
“Because there is nothing to talk about. We have a Grand Slam [title] to win, and that’s what’s most important. We don’t talk about the reward,” he said. “We talk about the work we have to do.”
That is going to include some extra time spent fine-tuning the top-seeded Williams’s serve after she delivered five double-faults, including three in one game, and faced five break points during an uneven 6-2, 6-4 victory over Amra Sadikovic, a Swiss qualifier ranked 148th and making her Grand Slam debut.
“It’s very rare that everything works perfectly the first round. It’s one of the things that were not good today, so we’re going to work on it,” Mouratoglou said. “But it’s not a big deal. I don’t think it’s a big deal.”
Didn’t take long for the first rain of this year’s tournament, which cut short action in the early evening and limited play to the main stadium, the only venue with a roof at the All England Club. In all, 14 matches were suspended in progress and 16 were postponed altogether.
Of the matches that did conclude, zero seeded players lost.
Winners included No. 2 Andy Murray, the 2013 champion, in the first all-British men’s match at Wimbledon since 2001; No. 4 Stan Wawrinka, who eliminated 18-year-old American Taylor Fritz and now faces 2009 . Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, participating in his first Grand Slam tournament in two-and-a-half years after three operations on his left wrist; No. 7 Richard Gasquet, No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 15 Nick Kyrgios.
Among the top women, No. 6 Roberta Vinci—who stunned Williams at the US Open last year, ending the American’s bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam—beat Alison Riske of the US, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3; No. 13 Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated unseeded Caroline Wozniacki, a former No. 1 who hasn’t won a match at a major in 2016; and No. 27 CoCo Vandeweghe of the US had little trouble getting past Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-2, 7-6 (3), under the roof in the day’s last match.
Since earning her sixth Wimbledon championship and 21st Grand Slam title a year ago, Williams has gone 18-3 at majors, with the losses coming in the US Open semifinals, the Australian Open final and the French Open final.
That led some to surmise that Williams has been beset by nerves as she seeks No. 22, which would equal Steffi Graf’s Open-era record (Margaret Court holds the all-time mark of 24).
Williams dismissed the notion of a mental stumbling block.
“I think more or less about winning Australia. I think about winning the French Open. Didn’t happen. I think about winning Wimbledon,” she said. “I don’t necessarily think about winning ‘22.’”
Then, in what sounded like a reference to various health issues that have put her in the hospital and kept her off the tour for months—blood clots on her lungs in 2010, for example—Williams continued: “Mentally I’ve been further down than anyone can be. Well, maybe not anyone, but I’ve been pretty low. There’s nothing…mentally too hard for me.”
With her mother sitting in Centre Court’s Royal Box, Williams trailed 15-40 in Tuesday’s opening game, then won 13 consecutive points and grabbed a 3-0 lead. In the second set, Williams made four unforced errors in one game to get broken and fall behind 2-1. But she broke right back.
When the players met at the net after Williams’s return winner ended the match, they embraced like old friends.
Turns out that was Sadikovic’s idea. She was a bit awe-struck by the occasion—and rightly so.
Sadikovic quit playing tennis two years ago, because she wasn’t enjoying life on tour and had financial problems. After more than a year off, giving tennis lessons, she returned. So while Sadikovic knew she’d have a better chance to win against pretty much any other opponent, she was thrilled to play Williams.
“I always looked up to Serena, because she’s like a beast, but in a positive way,” Sadikovic said. “I always asked myself the question: How does it feel…to play the best player in the world?”
Now she knows.
“I just wanted to hug her, to be honest,” Sadikovic said. “And I asked her. She was like, ‘Yeah, sure!’”