As she has done for most of the past 19 British summers, Venus Williams took a large, languid stride into the second round of Wimbledon.
The oldest woman in the main singles draw, five-times champion Williams was at times sublime as she beat Croatian Donna Vekic 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 on a sunny Court One.
While the full Williams armoury had been on display, it was her mental strength which stood out – perhaps no surprise given she is playing her 71st grand slam singles tournament, a record among current female players.
Vekic produced startling groundstrokes at times, but eighth seed Williams maintained her composure, increasing the pressure when things got tight as her opponent wilted in the spotlight.
In the second set, Vekic had a break chance to go up 5-3, but squandered the chance. The eighth-seeded Williams broke for 5-4 and served out the match.
“I felt like I couldn’t hit a winner against her today, she ran everything down and played amazing tennis,” Williams said.
“The first set, there were some hairy moments there, down some set points, but I guess that’s where experience sets in. I started to feel like maybe I had the chance to win the most important points.”
Williams made her first appearance at Wimbledon in 1997 but her career has been slowed in recent years by Sjogren’s syndrome, a condition that can cause joint pain and saps energy.
“You only live once,” she said.
“You have to enjoy, do it while you’re fairly young, and I guess somehow I’m still fairly young. You just have to live in the moment, and when it’s over, it’s over.”
In the tournament’s first big surprise, former top-ranked Ana Ivanovic was beaten 6-2 7-5 by Ekaterina Alexandrova, a Russian qualifier ranked 223rd in the world and making her Grand Slam debut.
The 23rd-seeded Serb blamed an injured right wrist, and said she won’t play between now and the Rio Olympics in August.