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Published on Jun 26, 2012
Pursed lips and grimaces are like shouts and howls for Venus Williams the more poker faced of the two sisters who have won so many Wimbledons. But Williams's subtle body language shouted volumes Monday the opening day of this year's championships. She has not always been at her sparkling best on the grass of her beloved All England Club but she has perhaps never looked as lost on any lawn as she did against Elena Vesnina. To the uninformed observer on Court 2 it would have come as quite a surprise to know that Williams was the player who had won five Wimbledon singles titles and that Vesnina an unseeded Russian had never been past the fourth round.
Williams moving sluggishly on a warm and sunny afternoon missed her first five serves then lost the first five games on her downbeat way to a 6,1, 6,3 defeat in the first round. She looks like a shadow of her grass court self said Pam Shriver the former champion and analyst sitting courtside. It was Williams's earliest loss at Wimbledon since her first visit in 1997 at age 17 and it was tempting to view it as a bookend to a career that is clearly fading. But Williams now 32 and struggling with an autoimmune disorder declined to subscribe to that line of thinking. Proud even prickly she rebuffed any retirement chatter and said she planned to be back at Wimbledon next year. I feel like I am a great player I am a great player she said. Unfortunately I had to deal with circumstances that people don't normally have to deal with in this sport. But I can't be discouraged by that so I'm up for challenges. I have great tennis in me. I just need the opportunity. There's no way I'm just going to sit down and give up just because I've had a hard time the first five or six events back. You know that's just not me.