Day 3 at Wimbledon 2018 brought auspicious tidings for qualifier Viktoriya Tomova – the world no.135’s second round opponent was not only ranked considerably lower than she, but also lower-ranked than Tereza Smitkova, the wild card whom Tomova beat in the first round to notch up her first-ever win in the main draw of a Slam.

A promising scenario for further progress then? Alas, the second round opponent in question dismissed Tomova 6-1, 6-4 in 66 minutes. Step forward, Serena Williams, for it was she. Ah well.

It isn’t too often that a contest between players ranked 135 and 181 is granted Centre Court status, but funnily enough that’s what 23 Grand Slam titles including seven Wimbledon crowns can do for you. This was a considerably more straightforward outing for Williams than her opening foray at the 2018 Championships against the left-handed Arantxa Rus on a blustery No.1 Court, where she struggled for rhythm.

This time there was no wind; instead, it was a breeze – competitively, at least. Opting to play without the compression tights she sported in the first round, Williams moved better and was altogether more at one with herself.

Tomova has 14 ITF titles to her name, but she might have been able to detect she was facing an inter-galactic step up in class by comparing her own Twitter following of 129 (and no, that’s not a misprint) to Serena’s 10.9 million. The 24-year-old Bulgarian’s best career result before this came when she got past Julia Goerges, then ranked 40, in Bastad last year, through Goerges’ retirement through injury.

Serena Williams in full swing
Serena Williams in full swing
Hoping for the same from Serena was probably the only way Tomova might have advanced here, not least because Williams last lost a set to a qualifier at a Slam 13 years ago and stood at 18-0 in such jousts before this match.

So it was less than a shock when the American bagged the first set in just 22 minutes. Tomova – whose best friend on the Tour is Britain’s own Harriet Dart, by the by – found more resourceful play in the second set, sufficient to prompt the occasional Serena roar.

Williams was up to match point No.4 when she finally extended her Wimbledon winning streak to 16 matches (courtesy of her 2015 and 2016 title victories – you may possibly have heard she was unable to defend her title last year as she was seven months pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia). She could perhaps now do with an opponent to stretch her somewhat, and had the seedings panned out she would have faced just such a test in the last 32 in Elina Svitolina; but the No.5 seed vacated the draw when she fell at the first hurdle. Nonetheless, this match confirmed that Williams is a serious contender to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish for an eighth time.

“It was better than my first round so I’m happy that I’m going in the right direction,” she told the BBC. “In my other match I didn’t move a lot but I’ve been moving a lot better since Paris, so that’s old news. I’m getting there, I don’t feel like I’m there yet, but I expect to get there, not only for Wimbledon but for the tournaments I play in the future.”

“Wimbledon did such a good thing with the seeding,” she said afterwards, in reference to the All England Club’s decision to seed her at No.25 – a judgment now justified by her progress to the third round. “It will be nice to see ladies live their life and not start having families at my age. These women can take a year off and have the most amazing thing in the world, then come back to their job and not have to start from the bottom, scrape, scrape, scrape. Still give them an opportunity to be out there after bringing life into the world. It’s so important.”

Source: Kate Battersby|| Wimbledon