In case you haven’t heard, tonight’s the night. After 14 years, World No. 1 Serena Williams returns to Indian Wells. The California native hasn’t played there since 2001 when as a 19-year-old with just one Slam, Serena beat the boos and beat Kim Clijsters in the final.
Serena was to play sisters Venus Williams in the semifinals, but when Venus withdrew minutes before the match, the crowd cried foul. And they didn’t forget when Serena walked on the court for the final. And when Venus and father Richard took their seats in the stands.
She’s now put the incident behind her, and she’s back.
“It was just a really good opportunity for me. It was time,” Williams said yesterday. “There wasn’t one thing that said I should come back in 2015 – I didn’t even know I’d still be playing this year.
“It was more or less just time. I just kind of felt it.
“I was taught when I was young to always forgive, and always try to look at the bigger picture, so to say,” Williams commented. “In order to forgive you have to be ready to let go of everything. I kind of let go a long time ago, but I still wasn’t at the point where I was ready to come back to Indian Wells. I think I was a little nervous as well. So trying to get over those nerves of coming back and how I feel, and thinking about what it’s going to be like – you have to let a lot of those emotions go.”
Serena will play tonight at 7pm local time against the unorthodox Monica Niculescu.
“I’m not here to focus on what happened in 2001,” she said. “I’m looking forward to stepping out on center court and letting the whole world know that it doesn’t matter about something that wasn’t right, or something that hurt you and hurt your family. You can come out and be strong and say, ‘I’m still going to be here, I’m still going to survive and I’m still going to be the best person that I can be.'”
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) March 13, 2015
Also playing, as the women’s seeds begin, are 2014 finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, Simona Halep, Lucie Safarova and Angelique Kerber who faces Sloane Stephens.
The men finish their first round with Sam Querrey, Nick Kyrgios and Jack Sock featured. Sock is making his 2015 debut.
Yesterday, Mardy Fish made his first singles appearance in 18 months. But the comeback fell just short as Ryan Harrison saved two matchpoints to beat the former finalist 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(3).
“It felt great to be out there,” said Fish. “Those are the situations that you work hard to put yourself into. This is such a great event. I have great memories from 2008 here, on that court, so it felt fantastic to be out there.
“I’ve worked really hard to get back in shape so I don’t have any issues during a match or after a match. I worked extremely hard to put myself in the best position not to worry about things when I’m out there.”
Harrison saved 12 of 15 break point in the 2-hour, 36-minute match win.
“He’s a great athlete,” said Harrison who next meets Kei Nishikori. “He’s been out for a while, but he can still come out and play a really good match. I think it was nervy from both of us at times, but I’m just happy to be through.”
Juan Monaco, Tim Smyczek, Jurgen Melzer, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Marcos Baghdatis were winner.
INDIAN WELLS FRIDAY SCHEDULE
STADIUM 1 start 11:00 am
WTA – A. Riske (USA) vs  A. Radwanska (POL)
ATP – S. Querrey (USA) vs S. Stakhovsky (UKR)
WTA – S. Stephens (USA) vs  A. Kerber (GER)
ATP – P. Carreno Busta (ESP) / R. Nadal (ESP) vs P. Cuevas (URU) / D. Marrero (ESP)
Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA –  [WC] S. Williams (USA) vs M. Niculescu (ROU)
SALUTE TO HEROS
Not Before 8:30 pm
ATP – N. Kyrgios (AUS) vs [WC] D. Kudla (USA)
STADIUM 2 start 11:00 am
ATP – A. Dolgopolov (UKR) vs [Q] F. Dancevic (CAN)
ATP – S. Johnson (USA) vs M. Granollers (ESP)
ATP – J. Sock (USA) vs Y. Lu (TPE)
WTA – [WC] S. Vickery (USA) vs  V. Lepchenko (USA)
ATP – M. Youzhny (RUS) vs [Q] V. Hanescu (ROU)
ATP – R. Bautista Agut (ESP) / H. Kontinen (FIN) vs J. Isner (USA) / S. Querrey (USA)
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