Serena wins on Indian Wells return

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Published: Saturday 14th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Serena Williams emerged triumphant on an emotional return to Indian Wells on Friday, beating Monica Niculescu in straight sets at the ATP & WTA BNP Paribas Open.

The world number one has not played at the tournament in the Californian desert, one of the biggest on the WTA Tour, since winning the title as a 19-year-old in 2001.

She was afforded a standing ovation as she walked out onto centre court, and the occasion seemed to affect her in the early stages as she found herself trailing 2-0.

But the 33-year-old American soon got into her rhythm and ground out a gutsy 7-5 7-5 triumph in two hours four minutes.

Williams had thought about returning last year only to change her mind. She was jeered during her final victory over Kim Clijsters 14 years ago by a crowd unhappy that Venus Williams had pulled out of a scheduled semi-final against her sister the previous day at the last minute.

Critics believed matches between the siblings were fixed and Venus and the women’s father and coach Richard claimed they were subjected to racist taunts in the stands.

Elsewhere in the women’s second round on Friday, Romania’s Simona Halep battled from a set down to defeat Russia’s Daria Gavrilova – and dedicated the victory to her cousin, following his recent death.

“It’s really tough to speak about this situation,” she said on www.wtatennis.com after her 2-6 6-1 6-2 win. “It’s a painful situation for everyone, for me and for my family.

“I just wanted to play this tournament because he loved tennis. He played tennis for many years. So I decided to stay here, because it was a little bit easier to pass this situation.

“I just want to dedicate this match to him, because he loved tennis and he was very talented.”

Russia’s former French and US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova toppled Czech Katerina Siniakova 7-6 (7/2) 6-2, while British number one Heather Watson edged into the third round with a nervy 7-5 7-5 victory over Italy’s Camila Giorgi and Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro despatched Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-1 6-1.

Ekaterina Makarova prevailed 6-4 6-0 in the all-Russian duel with Elena Vesnina, Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska progressed with a 6-3 6-1 win against American Alison Riske and Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova overcame Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-3 6-3.

There were also second-round wins on Friday for Elina Svitolina, Zarina Diyas, Karolina Pliskova, Timea Bacsinszky, Sloane Stephens, Lucie Safarova, Varvara Lepchenko and Garbine Muguruza.

In the men’s first round, Sergiy Stakhovsky rallied for a 2-6 6-4 6-2 victory over the United States’ Sam Querrey to set up a second-round meeting with ninth seed Tomas Berdych.

Jack Sock also overcame a first-set deficit, the American battling back for a 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 7-5 victory over Yen-Hsun Lu.

Diego Schwartzman overcame Jerzy Janowicz 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7/3). The Argentinian will play second seed Roger Federer in round two.

Slovakian Martin Klizan got past Pablo Andujar 7-6 (7/4) 6-3, while American Steve Johnson saw off Marcel Granollers 6-2 6-3 and Victor Hanescu defeated Mikhail Youzhny 6-3 6-4.

Andrey Golubev, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Donald Young, Michael Berrer, Igor Sijsling, Denis Istomin, Simone Bolelli, Robin Haase and Malek Jaziri all also reached round two.

In the late match, Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios defeated Ukraine’s Denis Kudla 6-4 7-5.

Published: Saturday 14th March 2015 by The News Editor

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