Venus battles past Vekic

Venus Williams (AFP)
Venus Williams (AFP)

London - Venus Williams battled into the Wimbledon second round as the five-time champion beat Croatian teenager Donna Vekic 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 on Monday.

Williams is the oldest woman in the main draw of this year's tournament and first won Wimbledon in 2000 when Vekic was just four.

The 36-year-old's vast experience eventually proved decisive as she saw off the 19-year-old in a hard-fought clash lasting one hour and 52 minutes on Court One.

World number eight Williams will play Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari for a place in the third round.

Venus hasn't won a Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 2008 and it is seven years since her last major final, a loss to sister Serena in the Wimbledon title match.

On her 19th appearance at Wimbledon, where she has made the final eight times, Williams reached a record-equalling 71 appearances in the main draw of Grand Slams in the Open era.

She marked the occasion by strolling onto Court modelling an eye-catching haircut featuring dyed red weaving.

Williams looked in trouble when Vekic, ranked 112th, broke for a 6-5 lead in the first set.

But Williams made a defiant recovery, staving off two set points to force a tie-break which she won in emphatic fashion.

Vekic, watched by boyfriend and former French Open champion Stan Wawrinka, matched Venus for long periods but fell short on the crucial points as Williams broke late in the second set to seal her 77th Wimbledon match victory.

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