July 4, 2018
Serena Williams says she is "moving in the right direction" after she saw off Viktoriya Tomova 6-1, 6-4 on Centre Court.
And Roger Federer seemed to glide through his 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 demolition of Lukas Lacko, barely breaking a sweat and never seriously troubled.
It was Serena’s physical condition that was most under the spotlight after she had been able to enjoy such little playing time of late.
She admitted that she played ‘better than the first match,’ but insists she isn’t back to her best just yet.
‘I expect to get there, though,’ she warned. ‘Not only for Wimbledon but for other tournaments in future.’
And that is an ominous promise, considering the fact that she is already back to an impressive enough level to wipe the floor with most players.
With the likes of Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova all out of Wimbledon in the first few days, serious rivals to Serena seem to be running thin.
Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep and Serena’s sister Venus currently look strongest and most capable of exposing her lack of match practice.
Many of Serena’s opponents appear to be beaten in their own minds even before they start.
So it seemed for Tomova, despite the odd first-set problem between Wiliams and her geometry.
But when Serena strikes the ball sweetly, it flies, just as it did before. And it flew at the right height and in the right direction with increasing regularity, despite a brave fightback from Tomova when it was already probably too late.
More encouragingly still, there were times when Serena’s movement looked significantly better than it did before – even though she seemed to suggest afterwards that she hasn’t yet had to move to any truly demanding degree.
Nevertheless, this was the perfect work-out, the perfect stepping stone. And the same could be said of Roger Federer’s Centre Court stroll against Lacko.
‘I had less nerves than for the first match, which was natural,’ he said.
And yet you wondered why he has been nervous so far at all, since there had been so little by way of a genuine challenge to his authority.
Further down the line, the likes of Marin Cilic or Rafael Nadal may expose some weaknesses or fatigue in Federer here or there.
The priority is to reach such threats in good shape, still feeling as fresh as possible.
As for Federer, so for Serena.
‘Day by day,’ Serena warned.
But right now all is going perfectly for the true giants of our sport in this first week of Wimbledon.