Updated with further results at 12:52 p.m.
Vesnina won 6-1, 6-3, with Williams’s lethargic performance raising questions about her future in the sport. Williams, who turned 32 last week and has played little since last fall because of health issues, was unable to summon any of her formidable strokes Monday, just as she could not in her second-round loss in the French Open last month.
Williams, playing at Wimbledon as an unseeded player for the first time since 1997, opened with five straight faults and, clearly, this was not be to her day. She was not, however, giving up or blaming Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that forced her to withdraw from the U.S. Open last summer, for her struggles.
“I feel like I am a great player. I am a great player. Unfortunately, I had to deal with circumstances that people don’t normally have to deal with in this sport,” Williams told reporters. “But I can’t be discouraged by that, so I’m up for challenges. I have great tennis in me. I just need the opportunity. There’s no way I’m just going to sit down and give up just because I have a hard time the first five or six frickin’ tournaments back.
“You know, that’s just not me.”
Despite losing in the first round of a Grand Slam for only the fourth time in her career, Williams isn’t done with Wimbledon this year. She is competing in doubles with her sister, Serena, and will return to the courts for the London Olympics next month.
“That’s all I fought for this whole year,” Venus Williams said. “I hope I can play well there. It’s an honor to just be there. I hope I can play well. ... I had the time of my life, especially to be able to win.”
Given how she looked today and her health problem, is it time for her to consider retiring?
In other results: Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, beat Juan Carlos Ferraro 6-3, 6-3, 6-1; No. 3 seed Roger Federer beat Albert Ramos, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1; top-seeded Maria Sharapova beat Anastasia Rodionova 6-2, 6-3.
Wimbledon 2012: Live scoreboard