Serena Williams makes triumphant return at Indian Wells
Former world number one Serena Williams made her long-awaited return to the WTA Tour as the 23-time grand slam champion advanced to the second round of the Indian Wells Masters.
Williams gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September but Thursday – International Women's Day – saw the tennis great back in a main draw for the first time since winning the 2017 Australian Open in Melbourne.
The American superstar had featured in the United States' Fed Cup victory over Netherlands after opting not to defend her Australian Open crown in January, while she stepped up preparations for Indian Wells by playing the Tie Break Tens event at Madison Square Garden in New York Monday.
And the 36-year-old did not look out of place at the tournament she has won twice previously, showcasing her trademark power and groundstrokes as she saw off Zarina Diyas 7-5 6-3.
Unsurprisingly, there was a big crowd in attendance to watch the American veteran grace the court once more, but her first point ended in a skewed volley at the net.
While there were some signs of rustiness and understandably so, Williams rarely missed a beat, earning five break points, including four in the fifth game, though Diyas proved an immovable force on serve.
The match stayed on serve until the 11th game, when Serena claimed the decisive break after Diyas hit a forehand into the net - her sixth break point – before closing out the set.
It was a topsy-turvy second set, in complete contrast to the first as the pair exchanged breaks for four consecutive games to be tied at 3-3.
That trend continued for a fifth straight game – Williams willing herself to another break and a 4-3 lead advantage, but she managed to immediately consolidate and move into the next round.
Williams bt Diyas 7-5 6-3
Williams – 34/27
Diyas – 11/14
Williams – 4/4
Diyas – 3/1
BREAK POINTS WON
Williams – 5/11
Diyas – 2/5
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Williams – 58
Diyas – 61
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Williams – 63/64
Diyas – 60/40
Williams – 75
Diyas – 62