When you miss six months of tennis to recover from an illness you are not suppose to bagel Top 3 players upon your return. But that’s just what Venus Williams did last night, impressively blanking reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the final set to cruise to a 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 win in the second round in Miami.
“It’s a big step forward,” Williams said afterward. “I know she’s playing well, so I just wanted to be focused on my game. I was trying to stay tough and make the points. I actually didn’t really realize the third set was 6-0… I was just trying to win the match, trying to get to six. It’s great to have a win like this.
“I think I’m a pretty good clutch player, so that third set is a good place for me to be. It’s where I try to bring my best tennis out.”
Venus had been of the tennis tour since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome during the US Open last year. After several tournament withdrawals some wondered if she would ever return to tennis. But after whipping Kimiko Date-Krumm and now the No. 3 ranked player in the world, the 31-year-old who ranks No. 134 this week appears to be headed back to the top of the sport.
“I have come a long way physically,” Venus said. “I know a lot better how to recover now. I have to cut out a lot of extracurricular activities. I’m not going to be the one having fun dinners – I’m going to be the one stuck in the room. But the price to pay is worth it.”
Kvitova, who not long ago was fighting for the No. 1 ranking, was also impressed.
“She looks very ready, very fit,” the Kvitova said. “She’s back.”
The win was also Venus’ 600th career match victory. In her next round she’ll meet Canadian Alexandra Wozniack.
On the men’s side, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, JW Tsonga and Tomas Berdych also posted easy wins. Indian Wells finalist John Isner needed three sets to beat Nikolay Davydenko. Milos Raonic was also a victor, he’ll next face Murray on Sunday.
Today’s incredible line-up features no fewer than five No. 1s consecutively on Stadium court, headlined by Roger Federer’s clash with American teen Ryan Harrison.
Harrison’s mentor, Andy Roddick, precedes him in a tough test against the big-serving Gilles Muller. Novak Djokovic is under the lights against former Top 10 Marcos Baghdatis and there are a slew of intriguing matchups on the outer courts including David Ferrer-Bernard Tomic and Juan Martin Del Potro-Ivo Karlovic.
For the women, Serena Williams opens play at 11am. Maria Sharapova, who’ll face young American hope Sloane Stephens, and Sam Stosur follow later.
After three days of darkness TV coverage finally begins on Tennis Channel at 11am ET.
SATURDAY MIAMI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 11:00 am
 R Vinci (ITA) vs  S Williams (USA) – WTA
Not Before 1:00 PM
G Muller (LUX) vs  A Roddick (USA) – ATP
 R Federer (SUI) vs [WC] R Harrison (USA) – ATP
[Q] S Stephens (USA) vs  M Sharapova (RUS) – WTA
Starting at 8:00 PM
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs M Baghdatis (CYP) – ATP
 S Stosur (AUS) vs C Scheepers (RSA) – WTA
GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
B Tomic (AUS) vs  D Ferrer (ESP) – ATP
[Q] S Bubka (UKR) vs  G Monfils (FRA) – ATP
K Clijsters (BEL) vs  Y Wickmayer (BEL) – WTA
[Q] F Dancevic (CAN) vs  M Fish (USA) – ATP
Not Before 5:00 PM
 J Del Potro (ARG) vs I Karlovic (CRO) – ATP
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Venus, Clijsters Make Winning Returns In Miami; Serena, Sharapova, Harrison, Nadal Today
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‘Brand Williams’ to Buy Miami Dolphins
Serena v Lefty, Crying Game v Slicy in Wimbledon Women’s Semis
Andy Roddick Says “Ask The Boss Lady” Serena About Playing Olympic Mixed Doubles