By Ros Satar

  • Serena Williams def. Zarina Diyas 7-5 6-3
  • Talks about change of perspective after health-scare after giving birth to daughter Olympia
INDIAN WELLS, USA – Former champion Serena Williams underlined International Women’s Day at the BNP Paribas Open with a hard fought win.

 

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Serena Williams def. Zarina Diyas 7-5 6-3

It was a very different welcome back to the main court at Indian Wells than the last time Serena Williams made a return after years of having boycotted the event. Then the crowd were largely appreciative but their patience tested later in the tournament when Williams had to pull out of her semi-final against Simona Halep.

This time it really did feel like a home-coming, and a testing one. Zarina Diyas was the opening challenger, and largely stayed toe-to-toe with Williams in the first set despite having to fend off five break points before finally lapsing at the end of the first set, with Williams gaining the lead on her third set point.

The second set was less straightforward with five successive breaks of serve as each time Williams thought she had the advantage, the Khazak peged her pack. Williams had the decisive advantage though, and broke for the border in the final game to round out a straight sets but far from simple win.

From a rusty looking exhibition match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi to Tie-Break Tens fun in New York, to a first win on the board since winning her 23rd Slam title in Australia in 2017 – she assessed her performance.

“I surprised myself with some of the errors but I’m not putting too much right now on this particular tournament. I’m really just trying to take it easy and not put so much pressure or stress or expectation on myself.

“I think timing [was the toughest part]. I think my stamina was really good. I’ve been training so long and so hard. Definitely just match play, making those key shots that I make nine out of 10 times – missing some of those a lot but it’s totally expected. I kind of went there knowing that I’m not going to be where I want to be in the first few matches. You know it takes time to get back.”

It was an emotional entrance once more for Williams – this time not anticipating the crowd’s reaction but more that she was missing Olympia, although she admitted it was easier playing a night match knowing her daughter and play-pal was asleep.

“I really had just nothing to lose right now and for me it;s a real joy to be out here. Sometimes I think about those moments. I was in the hospital, and you know just not even realising how serious it was until later and just being able to come through that just makes me feel that no matter what happens I know that I’m capable of being strong, whether I win or lose. There’s so much more to my life.”

Main Image: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

 

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