LONDON — After a week filled by a headline-grabbing, off-court tiff with Maria Sharapova and a series of apologies stemming from a magazine profile, Serena Williams got back to doing what she does best.
Better than anyone in the world right now, really.
Extending her winning streak to 32 matches, the longest single-season run on the women’s tour since 2000, Williams began her bid for a sixth Wimbledon championship and 17th Grand Slam title overall Tuesday with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over 92nd-ranked Mandy Minella of Luxembourg.
“You can call her pretty much unbeatable,” Minella said. “She’s playing better than ever. ... Every time she steps on court, you can see why.”
And yet Williams, the defending champion at the All England Club, and Patrick Mouratoglou, the French coach who has been helping her during a 75-3 stretch that dates to the start of Wimbledon last year, gave this assessment: There are areas of her game that could use some fine-tuning.
“After today, there’s so many ways that I can improve,” the top-ranked Williams said, “and that I’m going to need to improve if I want to be in the second week of this tournament.”
Here was Mouratoglou’s take after watching Williams win her first 17 service points: “I mean, of course, not everything is perfect yet. It’s interesting to see what we need to work on for the (coming) days.”
They also agreed that she did not have too hard a time setting aside the events of the previous seven days, which included a lot of saying “I’m sorry” — face-to-face with Sharapova, at a news conference, in two separate statements posted on the Web — over things Williams was quoted as saying in a Rolling Stone story.
Williams made a negative reference in a telephone conversation to a top-five player’s love life (the piece’s author surmised that was about Sharapova) and an off-the-cuff remark about a widely publicized rape case in the U.S. that was perceived by some as criticizing the victim.
“It hasn’t been a distraction,” Williams insisted. “I’m just here to focus on the tennis.”
The highest-seeded player to depart Tuesday was No. 10 Maria Kirilenko, beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Laura Robson, the first British woman to defeat a top-10 player at Wimbledon in 15 years.
Of the 10 local players who entered the tournament, Robson and reigning U.S. Open champion Andy Murray, last year’s runner-up at the All England Club, are the only two left.
“It’s hard for all the British players to come in here and, you know, lose first round,” said Robson, who beat Kim Clijsters at the 2012 U.S. Open in the last match of the four-time major champion’s career, “because you just feel extra disappointed.”
Other women winning easily included No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, the 2012 runner-up to Williams; 2011 French Open champion Li Na; and No. 7 Angelique Kerber, who eliminated Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the U.S., 6-3, 6-4.
As men’s top seed Novak Djokovic dispatched 34th-ranked Florian Mayer of Germany, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, the only real hitch was when he slipped to the Centre Court grass.
No. 4 David Ferrer took two falls and said he felt a “little bit of pain” in his left ankle during a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory over 101st-ranked Martin Alund of Argentina.
Sam Querrey, an American seeded 21st, lost 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3), 3-6, 2-6, 6-3 to 59th-ranked Australian Bernard Tomic in a match most noteworthy for what was said afterward.
Tomic ripped the ATP for barring his father, who also is his coach, from attending tournaments for 12 months because of pending assault charges. He said he would ask Wimbledon to let his father attend his next match.
The Netherlands’ Arantxa Rus, ranked No. 156, was beaten by Russia’s Olga Puchkova, 6-4, 6-2, for her 17th consecutive defeat. The WTA said the only other woman it knows of who lost 17 consecutive main-draw, tour-level matches was American Sandy Collins, who did it from 1984 to 1987.
Vince Spadea of the U.S. went 0-21 from 1999 to 2000, the longest skid on the men’s tour, according to the ATP.