Venus Williams wept at Wimbledon over the “devastation” of a fatal road accident for which she is facing legal action as Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal eased into the second round on Monday.
World number three Stan Wawrinka was the opening day’s biggest casualty, losing to Russian debutant Daniil Medvedev while there were emotional comeback wins for Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka.
Williams, the 37-year-old five-time champion, is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her maiden appearance at the All England Club.
But that landmark has been overshadowed by her involvement last month in a road accident near her Florida home which resulted in the death of a 78-year-old man.
“There are really no words to describe, like, how devastating and yeah. I’m completely speechless. It’s just…” Williams said in a news conference before breaking down and leaving to compose herself.
The family of Jerome Barson, who suffered a fractured spine and numerous internal injuries in the smash, said they intend to sue the US star.
When she was asked how she was coping mentally, Williams added: “I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. That’s all I can say about it. That’s what I’ve learned.”
Despite the tragedy at home, Williams remained focused enough on Court One to clinch a 7-6 (9/7), 6-4 victory over Belgium’s Elise Mertens in the first round.
Defending men’s champion Murray celebrated the news that he is about to become a father again by reaching the second round.
The top seed and world number one downed Kazakh lucky loser Alexander Bublik 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, showing little sign of the hip problem which plagued him in the build-up.
“I have felt OK the last few days and the adrenaline you feel by playing a match numbs any pain you may have,” said the British star after seeing off world number 134 Bublik.
Murray next faces Dustin Brown, the man who knocked out Nadal two years ago.
German world number 97 Brown came back from a set and a break down to beat Portugal’s Joao Sousa 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-4.