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Champions sparkle in the sun

Written by: Staff

LONDON, June 28 (Reuters) Defending champions Roger Federer and Venus Williams dazzled their opponents in the London sunshine as Wimbledon's big hitters strutted their stuff TOday.

Federer simply oozed class and authority against British nearly-man Tim Henman on Centre Court, chastening the four-times semi-finalist 6-4 6-0 6-2 in a one-sided second round match.

Williams uncoiled her long limbs for the first time this year on grass, dismantling fellow American Bethanie Mattek 6-1 6-0 to reach the second round.

Monday's rain meant sixth seed Williams, along with the likes of world number one Amelie Mauresmo and 2004 champion Maria Sharapova were playing catch-up.

Mauresmo hit the ground running, recording a 'double bagel' 6-0 6-0 demolition of hapless Croatian qualifier Ivana Abramovic while Sharapova reached round two with a ruthless 6-2 6-0 defeat of Israel's Anna Smashnova.

''It's one of the great matches that I've played here,'' Mauresmo told reporters, although her 38-minute victory constituted little more than a glorified knock-up.

If that trio barely broke sweat, Belgian second seed Kim Clijsters did not even need to hit a ball, moving into the third round courtesy of a walkover against sick Ukrainian Viktoriya Kutuzova.

Henman, unseeded for the first time in 10 years at his beloved Wimbledon, talked up his chances of ending Federer's march towards a fourth consecutive title while the Swiss admitted to apprehension at facing such a renowned grasscourt exponent so early in the tournament.

What transpired was a very public tennis lesson for Henman with Federer gaining revenge for his defeat by the 31-year-old five years ago on the same Centre Court.

From 5-4 in the opening set Federer launched an 11-game barrage that had Henman reeling and his fans watching on in macabre fascination. Federer's match-clinching ace came as a blessed relief.

''It's not a lot of fun beating a friend like this, that's for sure'' said Federer, who is delighted with his early form.

''I don't need to fight for rhythm, it's all here already.'' FEDERER EXPRESS It was bad for Henman, and not pleasant viewing for third seed Andy Roddick and 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, two of those annually saddled with trying to derail the Federer express.

A fretting Roddick, runner-up the last two years, had enough problems scrambling into the second round past tenacious Serb Janko Tipsarevic 6-7 6-4 7-6 6-2.

Hewitt, at least, looked in fine fettle, trouncing Italian Filippo Volandri 6-1 6-1 6-3 in his delayed first round match.

''It was a nice one to get under my belt. Especially knowing you have to back it up again tomorrow in the second round.

Things couldn't have gone better,'' said the 25-year-old Hewitt.

Both will have to play their second rounds on Thursday, as will Croatia's fifth seed Ivan Ljubicic who survived a topsy-turvy five-setter with Spain's Feliciano Lopez, coming through 6-3 6-4 5-7 3-6 11-9.

David Nalbanian, the burly Argentine fourth seed, joined Federer in the last 32 after his second straight sets victory, this time over Frenchman Arnaud Clement.

Williams has played in only four tournaments this year because of arm and elbow injuries but the 26-year-old shook off any rust to give the 103rd-ranked Mattek the runaround.

''She looked cute,'' said Williams afterwards, referring to Mattek's decision to play in what looked like fancy dress, complete with 1970s-style knee length white socks, tight shorts and bandana.

There were some high-profile casualties on day three.

Russian Nikolay Davydenko, the men's ninth seed, lost 2-6 7-6 7-6 6-3 to Colombian qualifier Alejandro Falla, while women's 11th seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy was bundled out by British wildcard Melanie South, the world number 305.

Reuters RK VP0113

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