Venus Williams: 'Nothing to lose'

LONDON -- If she let it, the third set could defeat her before she hit her first shot. If she thought about conserving energy, more precious now than it has ever been, she wouldn't get to the third set at all.

And if she allowed sympathy, either from others or herself, to cloud the mind of a seven-time Grand Slam champion, Venus Williams said Monday, well, that's just not her style. Never has been.

"I'm not looking for anyone to believe in me or anything like that," said Williams, who prevailed in her first-round match over Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor of Spain 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 for her 72nd Wimbledon victory. "I have nothing to prove, nothing to hide, nothing to lose."

But since 2011 and the diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that, among other symptoms, produces muscle soreness and extreme fatigue, a 1-hour, 46-minute match, let alone in the first round, is one she'd rather avoid if she is to make a run at a sixth Wimbledon title.

"Trying to conserve is not the right mentality because you really have to go out there and give it your all," she said. "You really just have to play smart. I think that's probably a better way to put it, is really play smart, be focused, be intense. Hopefully that helps you get on and off the court. That's never a guarantee.

"Today I thought I played pretty well. But a shot here, a shot there, the set is over. So you just have to somehow come through."

The third set happened because of a fluky let cord in Torro-Flor's favor. Williams shrugged it off and played some of her better tennis in the third set with 14 winners to four by her opponent and 14 of 16 first-serve points won (88 percent) to 5-of-10 for the Spaniard. Williams also fired 11 aces for the match compared to none by Torro-Flor.

Once one of the better players in three-set matches at Wimbledon with a 13-4 record, Williams now stands at 135-81 for her career, 38-26 in Slams and 3-6 in 2014.

Williams' biggest obstacle of the first week would appear to come in the third round, when she could play No. 6 Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champ. But no one can blame Williams, who last reached the final in 2009 when she lost to her sister and missed last year's tournament with a back injury, for not looking ahead.

"Unfortunately, [Sjogren's syndrome] is not something you had; it's something you have," Williams said. "So on a daily basis I'm trying to get the best out of myself. That's all I can ask is to get the best out of me. I never compare myself to anybody else."

Williams said there is little she can draw from her past success here.

"Obviously I've done well on this surface, [but] it's quite different than before," she said. "Now it's more about rallies. The courts are very slow. The ball stays up. ... Unfortunately I think the courts are becoming so similar that it's not encouraging players to play different."

Among the other American women in action Monday was No. 18 Sloane Stephens, who was upset by Maria Kirilenko. But Coco Vandeweghe scored her second win in two tournaments over Garbine Muguruza with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 victory. Vandeweghe also defeated Muguruza, who had knocked Serena Williams out of the French Open in a second-round stunner, en route to her first tournament win in the Netherlands. American Vania King lost to Yvonne Meusburger 7-5, 6-3.