Venus Williams lunges while making a return during her third-round victory… (Eddie Keogh / Reuters )
Reporting from Wimbledon, England — A bit of protective taping peeked out from under the flouncy bottom of Venus Williams' jumper.
Her upper leg was wrapped tightly, and once or twice Williams seemed to give a little grimace and tug at that leg.
But then Williams would extend her 6-foot-1 body, reach across the court and swallow up one of the ground strokes sent uncertainly toward her from Spanish opponent Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, and when Williams reached the ball, it would fly. Most shots Williams struck were knocked confidently, precisely and deep.
After taking nearly three hours to win her second-round match over 40-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, Williams gave Sanchez little space to hope, and the 31-year-old five-time Wimbledon champion moved to the fourth round by beating the Spaniard, 6-0, 6-2, in 61 minutes Friday.
Williams hasn't won a major title since Wimbledon in 2008, and she never seemed comfortable here last year.
She was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Tsvetana Pironkova, who was a little-known 21-year-old Bulgarian. After the loss, Williams had to answer whether she was still motivated to win big tournaments.
"Why wouldn't I want to pursue this?" Williams said then. "I'm pretty good at it most days. Today I didn't seem to be the best tennis player, but for the most part, I rock and roll this game."
Not that Williams will say the word, but she will get a chance at some revenge Monday when she plays Pironkova again. The 32nd-seeded Pironkova upset second-seeded Vera Zvonareva, 6-2, 6-3, on Friday, making Zvonareva, a 2010 Wimbledon finalist, the highest-seeded player to leave the women's draw.
Taking that distinction on the men's side Friday was American Andy Roddick. Roddick, 28 and seeded eighth, was overwhelmed by unexpectedly powerful serving from Spaniard Feliciano Lopez. Lopez, who had lost all seven previous matches against Roddick, upset the three-time Wimbledon finalist, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2), 6-4, on Centre Court.
Also losing Friday was 19-year-old Ryan Harrison, whose ranking and reputation are on the rise. In a match that started Thursday and carried over to Friday because of darkness, Harrison couldn't finish off an upset in the making. Harrison lost to seventh-seeded David Ferrer, another Spaniard, 6-7 (8), 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Even with the loss, Harrison was able to speak positively about his future.
"I think I can win this tournament," Harrison said. "I want to win it. Grass suits my game. If I'm serving well, I'm not going to get broken."
Roddick tried to speak positively, saying he wasn't as disappointed as last year when he was upset here in the fourth round by unheralded Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan.
"He served as well as someone has," Roddick said of Lopez, who had 28 aces. "You know, the stuff that's enabled me to beat him seven times, making passing shots under duress, making him play defense on his forehand, he did well today. Mixed up his serve. There weren't a whole lot of patterns. So he played an outstanding match."
Williams missed five and a half months of tennis after injuring her hip flexor at the Australian Open in January, but against Sanchez, she was quick to the ball.
"I feel like I'm moving very well," she said, "which is exciting for me, especially after all my injuries."
She also hinted at an attitude that might scare opponents.
"Last year, unfortunately, I didn't play that well," Williams said. "On a competitive level, I don't feel I competed well. Regardless of how I play, I know I'll be competing this time. Last year I got unhappy with how I was playing and let that affect my game. This year? I won't let that happen."