Recent mothers Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka were big winners Thursday night at the Indian Wells Masters.
In her first official tour match since winning the Australian Open in 2017, Serena survived a good effort from Zarina Diyas to advance 7-5, 6-3.
“It was incredible,” Serena said on court. “It’s been over a year and a kid later – and I get to go home now to her.
“It definitely wasn’t easy. I’ve played [Diyas] several times before and we always have a couple of tight sets. I’m a little rusty, but it doesn’t matter. I’m just out here on this journey doing the best I can.”
The unseeded Serena will next face Kiki Bertens on Saturday. She is a 2-time tournament champion winning in 1999 and 2001.
“Right now, for this particular tournament,” Serena added. “I’m really just trying to take it easy and not put too much stress or pressure or expectation on myself. And this is really one of the few times when I’ve been able to do that.
“I went in knowing I’m not going to be where I want to be in the first few matches. It takes time to get back.”
Bertens is the No. 29 seed.
Following Serena on court was her good friend Azarenka who because of issues between her and her ex-boyfriend over baby Leo, it was her first match since Wimbledon. The former No. 1 though had little trouble with the dangerous Brit Heather Watson in a 6-4, 6-2 victory.
“I’m glad to be here, glad to be in the routine,” Azarenka said. “It’s something familiar, but it’s been a while so it’s a little unfamiliar. I’m happy to be in my zone.”
“Probably the hardest thing to do was to lower my expectations today, and just to go out there and try to enjoy the moment, and, for once, be nice to yourself on the court,” Azarenka continued. “Don’t beat yourself up too much if you’re not doing what you think you can do. That was definitely a battle in my head to make that work.”
“My focus was just to be out there and enjoy myself, and not to put too much pressure — but of course I’ve done that in the match, and I wanted to push myself,” Azarenka elaborated. “But just being out there was the most important thing.”
Azarenka will meet US Open champion Sloane Stephens on Saturday.
“A week ago, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be here, but today I won my first match in however long, so I’ll take it,” she added.
Cici Bellis, Sorana Cirstea and Natalia Vikhlyantseva who beat Vera Zvonareva were also winners.
On Friday, seeds finally take the court led by world No. 1 Simona Halep, No. 3 Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova.
In the men’s draw on opening day, American men went 3-5 to start with Taylor Fritz beating towering countryman Reilly Opelka, qualifier Mitchell Krueger stunning Benoit Paire and Jared Donaldson ousting Evan King.
Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson were among the losers. Harrison blew two match points in a loss to Federico Delbonis who next gets Roger Federer. Johnson was sent home by Daniil Medvedev.
Denis Shapovalov made a winning debut beating Ricardis Berankis.
Today, Gael Monfils, Frances Tiafoe and Tennys Sandgren headline.
INDIAN WELLS FRIDAY SCHEDULE
STADIUM 1 Starts At 11:00 Am
1st Rd Gael Monfils VS Matthew Ebden
1st Rd Frances Tiafoe VS (WC) Ernesto Escobedo
2nd Rd 1 Simona Halep VS Kristyna Pliskova
Not Before 7:00 Pm
2nd Rd 3 Garbiñe Muguruza VS (Q) Sachia Vickery
SALUTE TO HEROES
Not Before 8:30 Pm
1st Rd Albert Ramos-Vinolas/Fernando Verdasco VS John Isner/Jack Sock
STADIUM 2 Starts At 11:00 Am
2nd Rd 9 Petra Kvitova VS Yulia Putintseva
2nd Rd 17 CoCo Vandeweghe VS Kaia Kanepi
1st Rd Nikoloz Basilashvili VS (WC) Tennys Sandgren
1st Rd (Q) Vasek Pospisil VS (Q) Felix Auger-Aliassime
Not Before 6:00 Pm
1st Rd Feliciano Lopez/Marc Lopez VS Juan Martin del Potro/Grigor Dimitrov
1st Rd Marcus Daniel/Diego Schwartzman VS Philipp Kohlschreiber/Lucas Pouille
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