It was Williams’ first appearance on Centre Court since the 2008 final, when she beat sister Serena for her second Wimbledon title in a row.
Venus slipped five points into the match, one of several wobbly moments as she began her bid for a three-peat. She double-faulted in the opening game and had to erase two break points. She was passed the first two times she reached the net. She slipped and nearly fell a second time.
Then Williams found her footing, winning 14 consecutive points to help her take a 5-1 lead. She had another spurt in the second set after losing serve for 2-all, and swept the final four games.
Williams improved to 51-4 at the All England Club since 2000, when she won the title for the first time. She’s seeded third but is the tournament favorite with London bookmakers.
The new retractable roof again worked as a deterrent for rain, with dry weather for a second successive day. Play began on a cloudless afternoon, prompting an official on the club’s public-address system to urge that fans use sun block.