Simona Halep Simona Halep

LONDON: A time violation warning, a few spots of rain and the thunderous groundstrokes of her rival could not throw Venus Williams off her long-limbed stride as she reached the Wimbledon third round with a 7-5 4-6 6-3 win over Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari yesterday. Playing an opponent who was not even aged three when she won the first of her seven grand slam titles at Wimbledon in 2000, Williams proved that it would take more than mere determination to topple the American eighth seed.

Barring a loss to an unranked Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open, Williams had not lost to a player ranked outside the world’s top 100 at a grand slam this century. World number 115 Sakkari’s hopes of ending that run gathered momentum when she broke the 36-year-old three times in the second set. But Williams, who dropped her serve in the seventh game of the first set after incurring a time violation warning for switching rackets, was back into her groove in the third set and set up a meeting with Russian Daria Kasatkina.

Meanwhile, a clinical Simona Halep wasted no time in reaching the third round at Wimbledon yesterday, cruising past Italian veteran Francesca Schiavone 6-1 6-1 in just over an hour.

Showing glimpses of the form that took her to an All England Club semi-final in 2014 and to world number two last year, the fifth-seeded Romanian had too much power and court craft for her 111th-ranked opponent. Halep controlled much of the play with pinpoint groundstrokes, dominating the baseline rallies and often finding winning passing shots when her 36-year-old opponent varied her game by coming to the net.

Troubled in recent months by an Achilles injury that forced her withdrawal from the Birmingham event in mid-June, Halep was playing only her second grasscourt match of the season. Her record at Wimbledon remains mixed. With the exception of 2014, she has previously got no further than the second round in four attempts. Halep next faces 26th-ranked Kiki Bertens, who this month became the first Dutchwoman in almost half a century to reach the French Open semi-finals. — Reuters