Returning to the court where she won her first Grand Slam championship a year ago, Petra Kvitova overcame a shaky start and a late rain delay on Tuesday to open her Wimbledon title defence with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Akgul Amanmuradova.
Four-time champion Serena Williams, meanwhile, returned to the same Court 2 where big sister Venus was upset a day earlier - and restored family pride by beating Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4.
The fourth-seeded Kvitova fell behind 3-0 and 4-1 in the first set on Centre Court before running off seven straight games to take command against the 96th-ranked player from Uzbekistan.
After Kvitova squandered a match point at 5-3 in the second set, play was suspended and the covers rolled onto the court - the first rain break of the tournament.
When play resumed half an hour later, it took just three minutes to wrap up the match. After Amanmuradova won the first two points to hold for 5-4, the Czech player closed out the match at love, hitting a service winner and two aces and forcing a backhand error.
"It was unbelievable to come back here as the defending champion,'' said Kvitova, who beat Maria Sharapova in last year's final.
"In the beginning I think I was nervous - first match on the grass it's always difficult to know what you can expect. I had a lot of mistakes and then I tried to play my game and go forward.''
The 6-foot-3 Amanmuradova pushed Kvitova with her big serve, but lacked the consistency on her ground strokes and has now lost in the first round of all five Wimbledon appearances.
Following Kvitova on Centre Court was two-time champion Rafael Nadal, and he found himself in an early hole just as she had. Nadal was down 4-0 in the opening set, but roared back to beat Brazilian left-hander Thomaz Bellucci 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-3. The Spaniard closed the match with an ace down the middle, his sixth of the day.
Nadal, coming off his record seventh French Open title, broke six times and had 35 winners and 18 errors. Having lost in last year's final to Novak Djokovic, he is bidding for a 12th Grand Slam title.
"I'm very happy to be back on the best court in the world and winning,'' Nadal said.
"It's fantastic for me, but I have to improve a lot for the next round.''
Fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga took apart 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. The Frenchman, who beat six-time champion Roger Federer last year to reach the semi-finals, broke the Australian once in each set and never lost serve.
|Not a good day for Australians as Lleyton Hewitt joined three other Aussies knocked out in the fourth round [EPA]
Hewitt has slipped to 202nd in the rankings and needed a wild card for his 14th straight appearance at the All England Club. Tsonga was too powerful, racking up 61 winners to the Australian's 12. It was Hewitt's first opening-round loss here since 2003.
Hewitt was one of four Australians in the men's draw, and all bowed out in the first round. It marks the first time since 1938 that no Australian men have reached the second round at Wimbledon.
Playing his first match since having a medical procedure on his heart, 10th-seeded Mardy Fish of the United States served 24 aces and beat Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo of Spain 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (1) to reach the second round.
The 30-year-old Fish, who reached the quarter-finals last year, had not played a competitive match in 2½ months after having an accelerated heartbeat. He played attacking, serve-and-volley tennis and piled up 63 winners against Ramirez-Hidalgo - at 34, the oldest man in the field.
In the late game Britain’s Andy Murray brushed aside Nikolay Davydenko 6-1, 6-1, 6-4. Murray took control from the start and never looked back against the former third-ranked Russian. Murray broke Davydenko six times and never dropped his own serve.
In early women's play, No. 12 Vera Zvonareva completed a 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over Germany's Mona Barthel in a match that had been suspended by darkness at one set apiece on Monday.
Also advancing to the second round was ninth-seeded Marion Bartoli of France, who downed Casey Dellacqua of Australia, 6-2, 6-4.
Francesca Schiavone, the 24th-seeded Italian, came from behind to overcome18-year-old British wild card Laura Robson 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion, received medical treatment after the first set for an apparent muscle problem. She was down 2-3 and 0-40 in the second set but saved the three break points and turned the match around against the 2008 Wimbledon junior champion.
In a men's match between two rising stars of the game, 21-year-old Belgian wild card David Goffin - who reached the fourth round of the French Open and took a set off Roger Federer - rallied from a set down against 19-year-old Bernard Tomic to beat the 20th-seeded Australian, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.