Jun 22 2011 By Colin Mackenzie
Wimbledon was a sea of tears yesterday - and, for once, it wasn't the despair of British women knocked out in round one of the world's greatest tennis tournament.
Four times Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, off the tennis court for 49 weeks because of a foot injury and a pulmonary embolism, was crying her eyes out after battling past Arevane Rezai in three sets on the Centre Court.
Williams, 29, bidding for three consecutive singles titles in SW 19, was not expecting to be at Wimbledon this year after what has been a personal "annus horribilis".
She said; "It's been a disaster year. I never expected to be here. I just wanted to win at least one match at Wimbledon. I'm not a crier, but it felt so emotional. Everyone has their troubles and you must have faith that you can get through it.
"I've learned you can never take any moment for granted - I learned to try to appreciate it all. Each and every point, each and every moment I enjoy and relish. This is the beginning of the road not the end."
Rezai, who is no mug on the tennis court, battled back in the second set after losing the first in 37 minutes. The match was tied 6-3, 3-6 before the big hitting Williams finally stamped her authority and her big personality on the game. Match point was won with a 113mph serve after Rezai was unable to match her opponent in the final set losing 6-1.
There were no tears among the leading men as Roger Federer and Novac Djokovic strolled past their first round opponents in straight sets. They, along with Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, look a class apart from their rivals and neither dropped a set.
There was no repeat of last year's record breaking 11 hr plus marathon as the giant John Isner beat France's Nicolas Mahut in little more than two hours in straight sets late last night.
Last year their match, on Court 18, lasted into three days with the final set breaking all records at 70-68 to Isner. This time the 6ft 8ins American won 7-6, 6-2, 7-6. Mahut briefly threatened in the third set by breaking Isner's giant serve for the first time at 2-2. But his delight was short lived as Isner broke back and eventually won the tie break. Mahut was wearing a bandage on his knee which may have impeded his movement.
British teenage stars Laura Robson and Heather Watson will have to wait until today before strutting their talents. But Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong - the latter against fellow Brit Naomi Broady - did get through to the second round.
Baltacha, 28, is playing the best tennis of her life and was totally dominant against the German qualifier Mona Barthel. She has changed her service action, taking a little pace off it. But it is the consistency of her ground strokes, including a powerful forehand, that has transformed her game in the last 12 months. She now faces China's Shuai Peng.
Keothavong, herself tearful last year following her first round defeat, was all smiles after beating her lower ranked British opponent. She faces the daunting prospect of beating No 8 seed Petra Kvitova on Court One today straight after Andy Murray has faced Tobias Kamke.
Keothavong, 27, has given herself a year to prove that she can compete at the top level again. She still lacks consistency on her serve, a department in which she could learn from the 6ft plus Broady. The latter was serving regularly at 117 mph - pity her ground strokes and net play don't match the panache of her serving.