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SLOPPY VENUS DISPOSES OF ASAGOE IN STRAIGHT SETS

Venus Williams began defense of her Wimbledon title today with her first win in more than a month, overcoming a mid-match lapse to beat Japan's Shinobu Asagoe, 6-2, 6-3.

The match lasted 65 minutes but Williams, seeded second, could and should have won in half that time, but her own lapses prolonged the match on Centre Court.

She had little trouble with the unusual heat on Centre Court, reaching a steamy 91 degrees, and the pressure of defending the most prestigious title in tennis.

"I don't feel any pressure to defend," she said. "I'd just like to win again."

Williams wasted no time celebrating as she broke into a big smile after Asagoe's final service return was hit but before it landed long. Her last win came in the round of 32 at the German Open in May.

Williams is playing in only her eighth tournament this year despite being healthy. She won two of them but lost her last match before today, in the first round of the French Open May 28.

"I don't think I'll ever get over it," she said. "I don't think I worked hard enough. I deserve to be in this position but it's OK. I'm not doing that bad."

If Williams was affected by her layoff, it didn't show early as she won the first three games with the loss of only one point. But at 3-1, she inexplicably lost her edge and allowed Asagoe, ranked 62 in the world, to break her.

Although the American broke straight back, she struggled in an epic eighth game and only took the set on her seventh break point after a series of backhand errors had squandered several chances.

The Japanese 24-year-old refused to be overawed, despite losing the first set in 29 minutes.

Asagoe, who lost her ninth straight opening-round match, went up 3-1 in the second set. The turning point came in the next game when she couldn't capitalize on three break points and lost.

Williams then won the last four games, dropping just four points -- none in the final game.

Serena Williams watched from the stands, at one point holding a cell phone to her ear. And father Richard Williams took pictures.

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