Illness cannot overtake the heart of five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, but it can assault her body. It doesn't help that she's 32 years old, of course. And it doesn't help that her first-round opponent today was someone who is capable of playing extremely well--and who did so. Elena Vesnina brought her best game to Wimbledon's Court 2 today, which was a stark contrast to Williams' obvious struggle to maintain. Vesnina defeated Williams 6-1, 6-3. It was the first time in 15 years that Williams had made a first-round exit at the All England Club.
The former champion's slow walk off of the court was hard to watch. In her press conference, she apologized for her laughter. The dissonance between her affect and what one presumes was her emotion was poignant.
When she was in Charleston, Williams--who has Sjogren's syndrome--said that "...I always feel like I'm stepping into the unknown." Well, if anything felt like "the unknown" to Williams, it might have been going out in straight sets in the first round of the tournament that made her a legend. She isn't entirely out of Wimbledon, though; she and her sister are entered in doubles competition.
Though Venus Williams' exit was the news of the day, there were other exits worth mentioning. 18th seed Jelena Jankovic went out in straight sets to the unseeded Kim Clijsters. Melanie Oudin lost to Timea Babos. Jamie Hampton beat Daniela Hantuchova, and countrywoman Camila Giorgi upset 16th seed Flavia Pennetta.
Maria Sharapova, Sam Stosur, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Li Na all advanced, as did Maria Kirilenko, Sloane Stephens and Heather Watson.