Wimbledon, England (SportsNetwork.com) - Australian Open champion Li Na, former Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and former world No. 1s Victoria Azarenka and Venus Williams posted first-round victories on opening day at The Championships, Wimbledon.
The second-seeded Li bested Poland's Paula Kania, making her WTA-level debut, 7-5, 6-2 on the famed Centre Court, while the sixth-seeded 2011 Wimbledon winner Kvitova cruised past fellow Czech Andrea Hlavackova 6-3, 6-0, and the eighth-seeded Azarenka handled 32-year-old Croat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-3, 7-5 on No. 1 Court at the venerable All England Club.
The 32-year-old Li has reached at least the semifinals at all of the majors except for Wimbledon, where she's a three-time quarterfinalist, including last year.
Her second-round opponent will be Austrian Yvonne Meusburger.
The left-handed Kvitova has reached at least the quarterfinals here four straight years and will meet German Mona Barthel on Wednesday.
Azarenka fought to get past the 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist Lucic-Baroni, winning on her fifth match point. The Belarusian struggled with her serve, with eight double faults, but made the most of her opponent's 29 unforced errors.
The two-time Australian Open champion just returned to tour action last week after being sidelined with a foot injury for three months. Monday marked her first match win since the fourth round at the Aussie Open in January.
Azarenka reached back-to-back Wimbledon semifinals before pulling out of her second-round match here a year ago because of an injury.
Next up for the Belarusian star will be Serbian Bojana Jovanovski.
The 30th-seeded Williams picked up her first Wimbledon win in three years with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Spaniard Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor.
The 34-year-old Williams owns seven major tiles, including five Wimbledon crowns, and she's now 72-11 lifetime at Wimbledon.
Her second-round opponent will be Japan's Kurumi Nara.
Tenth-seeded Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova, of Slovakia, whipped Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak 6-1, 6-2 on Centre Court; 12th-seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta drubbed Slovak Jana Cepelova 6-2, 6-3; oft-injured former U.S. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer, who has been working with fellow Belgian and former world No. 1 star Kim Clijsters, dropped 17th-seeded former U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur 6-3, 6-4; and Russian Maria Kirilenko doused 18th-seeded American Sloane Stephens 6-2, 7-6 (8-6).
Stosur struggles mightily on grass, having suffered six first-round exits in 12 trips to the All England Club and never advanced beyond the third round here.
Stephens saved five match points against Kirilenko before play went to a second-set tiebreak. Stephens had reached at least the fourth round at the last six Grand Slam events, including a run into the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year.
Stephens is still a solid 31-13 at the majors, but a pedestrian 55-54 everywhere else.
In other action involving seeds, No. 22 Russian Ekaterina Makarova overcame 43-year-old Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm 3-6, 6-4, 7-5; No. 23 Czech Lucie Safarova edged out German Julia Goerges 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-3); hot American Coco Vandeweghe converted on her 13th match point in taking out No. 27 Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 3-6, 7-5; and No. 32 Russian Elena Vesnina took care of Austria's Patricia Mayr-Achleitner 6-0, 6-4. Vandeweghe corralled her first-ever WTA title, on grass, in The Netherlands just two days ago. Muguruza shocked Serena Williams in the second round at the French Open last month.
Several other women advanced, including Meusburger, Jovanovski, Barthel, Nara, Aussie Casey Dellacqua, and American Lauren Davis.
Rain forced the suspension of some action, as fourth-seeded 2012 Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska was leading Andreea Mitu 4-2; 14th-seeded former French Open runner-up Sara Errani was tied with France's Caroline Garcia 6-2, 6-7 (3-7); 16th-seeded former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki was ahead of Israeli Shahar Peer 6-3, 2-0; and Portuguese Michelle Larcher de Brito was leading 28th-seeded two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova 2-1 when rain started to fall just after 8 p.m. local time.
The current world No. 1 Serena will open her fortnight Tuesday against Georgian Anna Tatishvili. The American great is a 17-time major champion, including five Wimbledon championships, just like her older sister, Venus.
Meanwhile, third-seeded French Open runner-up Simona Halep will face Brazil's Teliana Pereira and fifth-seeded Roland Garros champion Maria Sharapova will take on Brit Samantha Murray. Sharapova captured her lone Wimbledon title by upsetting Serena in the final here 10 years ago.
Also on Tuesday's schedule will be seventh-seeded former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, 11th-seeded former top-ranked star Ana Ivanovic, 13th-seeded two- time 2014 Grand Slam semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard, and 19th-seeded Sabine Lisicki, who was last year's Wimbledon runner-up to since-retired Marion Bartoli.