Top-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany took her first step toward potentially returning to the final at Wimbledon with Tuesday's 6-4, 6-4 victory over American Irina Falconi in London.
The opening match at Centre Court on Day 2 at Wimbledon traditionally features the women's winner from the previous year, but Serena Williams is taking the rest of 2017 off due to her pregnancy.
Williams bested Kerber in last year's final, but the latter took the coveted spot on Tuesday and fended off Falconi to avoid another early-round setback. The 29-year-old Kerber lost in the opening round of the French Open just five weeks ago.
Kerber thwarted her spirited challenger on Tuesday to record her first win at a grand slam tournament since falling in the fourth round at the Australian Open in January.
Falconi, who is ranked No. 247 in the world, broke Kerber on one occasion in each set before a double fault handed her foe two break points and a 5-4 lead in the second set. Kerber then put away Falconi, who fell short for the fifth time in as many Wimbledon appearances.
Kerber advances to face Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, who posted a 6-4, 6-3 win over Japan's Misaki Doi.
Third-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic coasted into the second round with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Evgeniya Rodina of Russia.
Pliskova, who has a chance to climb to No. 1 in the world rankings, is coming off a victory at the Aegon International -- her third title of the season -- and dominated the opening set.
She hit 23 of her 35 minutes in the first set and wound up breaking Rodina's serve four times to advance to a second-round matchup against Magdalena Rybarikova, who also won her first-round match in straight sets.
"I think it's the toughest draw in the second round so far for me at a Grand Slam. For being seeded, I think it's very tough, tough round," said Pliskova of her next match. "We've never played, but I know she can be really dangerous."
Pliskova can ascend to No. 1 if Kerber fails to make the final here or if second-seeded Simona Halep does not advance to the semis. If Halep and Pliskova meet for the title, the winner will take over the top ranking.
"I know it's been for last few weeks this thing about being world No. 1 for a few players," said Pliskova. "I just don't want to be focusing on this. For me it's just important to win the matches."
Seeded winners on Tuesday included No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, No. 7 Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, No. 9 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, No. 12 Kristina Mladenovic of France, No. 14 Garbine Muguruza of Spain, No. 19 Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland, No. 24 Coco Vandeweghe of the United States and No. 32 Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was not as fortunate as the 16th-seeded Russian fell in three sets to Arina Rodionova. The Australian posted a 3-6, 7-6 (6), 9-7 win over Pavlyuchenkova.
Other seeded players to fall included No. 20 Daria Gavrilova of Australia, No. 23 Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, No. 28 Lauren Davis of the United States and No. 30 Zhang Shuai of China.