LONDON — Back in her comfort zone on Centre Court, Serena Williams delivered an overpowering statement: When her serve is steaming, she's the woman to beat at Wimbledon.
Putting aside her recent comments that led to a couple of apologies and a brief spat with Maria Sharapova, Williams looked every bit the five-time champion. She began her Wimbledon title defense with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Mandy Minella of Luxembourg.
"For me, it's the greatest moment for a tennis player, to walk out on Centre Court," Williams said after her first match at Wimbledon since winning the Olympic gold medal there last year. "That was such a great moment, too. So many great memories on this court."
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic also opened with a straight-sets victory, beating Florian Mayer of Germany 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Mayer is a two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist, losing to Djokovic at that stage last year. But he was never in danger of springing another stunner following Rafael Nadal's first-round exit a day earlier.
Djokovic took a 3-0 lead in the first set and broke for a 6-5 lead in the second to take control. He served out the match to love before saluting the crowd with a fist pump.
"It was a big pleasure again performing here on Centre Court in front of the packed crowd," Djokovic said. "For the first round, it was tricky. ... I think [Mayer's] game is really well suited for grass, so it took a lot of effort."
For Williams, this was a chance to put the focus back on tennis following the verbal jousting with Sharapova over their private lives — and comments about an Ohio rape case for which she had to apologize — and she took full advantage.
As usual on grass, the top-ranked Williams dominated with her hard serve, winning the first set without dropping a point on her service game. Her main weapon let her down only at the start of the second set, when Minella took a 2-0 lead after Williams double-faulted on break point.
She was one point from going down 3-0 but then won 15 of the next 18 points to take a 4-2 lead, and broke again to wrap up the victory.
"I feel like I was a little rusty for some reason today," Williams said. "I don't feel like I played my best. I felt really upset when I lost my serve in the second set. With that being said, I think Mandy played really well.