LONDON Sabine Lisicki opened her Wimbledon campaign with an emphatic victory against Israel's Julia Glushko, proving she was worthy of opening play on Center Court and helping to erase memories of her meltdown in last year's final.
Opening proceedings on the main show court on the second day of the tournament, known as Ladies Day, is usually reserved for the previous year's champion, but Marion Bartoli has now retired from the game.
Handed the honor of acting as Bartoli's stand-in, Lisicki could have been forgiven for feeling nervous on her return to the scene of her straight-sets defeat in her first grand slam final.
A smiling Lisicki, however, appeared at ease right from the coin toss ceremony overseen by Bartoli, and the world No.19 wasted no time seeing off Glushko 6-2 6-1 in less than an hour.
"A few weeks ago I was also wondering how I would feel to come back here and play the first round. It was awesome," the 24-year-old German told reporters after the match.
Lisicki said she felt at home playing on the Wimbledon grass again, shrugging off thoughts of her mid-match tears in last year's final, and it was her victorious opponent that day who was overcome by emotion on her brief appearance before Tuesday's match.
Frenchwoman Bartoli, who retired because of injury shortly after her title triumph, received a standing ovation as she walked on to Center Court hand in hand with a young player from the tennis academy for disadvantaged children that was set up by British player Elena Baltacha, who recently succumbed to cancer.
"I'm sorry I got so emotional - I couldn't hold my tears being on the Center Court and supporting #Rally4Bally at Wimbledon," Bartoli said on Twitter.
Lisicki, meanwhile, is drawing on the experience of beating five-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams on her way to last year's final.
Dogged by illness and a shoulder injury for much of this year and forced to retire from the French Open last month, she said it was good to be back at the All England Club.
"It's just a place that means so much to me," she said, recalling the intensity of last year's match against Williams. "I think it does something magical to me when I come back here."
(Editing by David Goodman)