WIMBLEDON, England — Finding her range and fending off a spirited challenge from yet another little-known opponent, Serena Williams came back to beat the Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, in the late afternoon shadows at Wimbledon on Thursday.
On paper, Williams and Juvan are a universe apart. Williams, 37, holds seven Wimbledon singles titles and 23 Grand Slam singles championships over all. Juvan, an 18-year-old ranked 133rd, played her first match at a major tournament this summer, at the French Open, where she lost in the first round.
But aided by a raft of errors from her deeply seasoned opponent, Juvan won the first set with little trouble. Facing the possibility of what would have been an upset for the ages, Williams, the 11th seed, bounced back and began finding her range and aggression. She clinched the second set with a deep, curling forehand approach shot that drew an error. She then raced in front at the beginning of the third set and closed the match with a powerful service game.
Williams avoided the fate of the woman who defeated her in last year’s Wimbledon final: fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber, who lost to the American lucky loser Lauren Davis, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.
After returning to the tour from maternity leave in March 2018, Williams has yet to return to her championship form. Stirring runs to the finals at last year’s Wimbledon and United States Open ended in dispiriting defeats. This year she has played an abbreviated schedule while battling ankle and knee injuries, and she was upset in the third round of the French Open. This week, in the opening round at the All England Club, she struggled to find consistency against the qualifier Giulia Gatto-Monticone.
In third round, Williams will face 18th-seeded Julia Görges, whom Williams defeated in the Wimbledon semifinals last year.
No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, No. 4 Kiki Bertens, No. 6 Petra Kvitova and No. 9 Sloane Stephens also advanced to third round.
In the men’s draw, the eight-time champion Roger Federer defeated the British wild-card entry Jay Clarke, 6-1, 7-6 (3), 6-2.
John Isner, a semifinalist last year, was knocked out in the second round, losing a five-setter to Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan. Isner, seeded ninth, was playing his first tournament since sustaining a foot injury at the Miami Open in April.
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