Serena wins first match after 14-month layoff

From ESPN - March 8, 2018

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Serena Williams won her first match in her comeback at the BNP Paribas Open after a 14-month layoff for the birth of her first child.

The 23-time major winner defeated Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 7-5, 6-3 in the first round Thursday night.

"It was incredible,'' Williams said on court after the 1-hour match. "It's been over a year and a kid later and I get to go home to her now, and I am excited about that.''

With husband and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian looking on, Williams played from behind until breaking Diyas in the 11th game.

Williams served a love game capped by a 100 mph ace in her first service game. She had break points in the first and fifth games but could not convert. She started hitting harder and her familiar grunting returned when she tied the set 5-all.

Diyas and Williams traded service breaks early in the second set. Williams then broke her opponent again en route to winning the final five games. She smiled as she walked to the net, and her family gave her a standing ovation.

"It definitely was not easy,'' Williams said on court. "We always have a couple tight sets. It was good. I am a little rusty, but it does not matter. I am just out here on this journey and doing the best I can.''

Also in Williams' box were her mother Oracene, sisters Lyndrea and Isha, her agent, and her coach Patrick Mouratoglou. Older sister Venus watched from a balcony seat in an upper-level box on a 68-degree night in the Southern California desert.

Williams has been away since winning the 2017 Australian Open early in her pregnancy. She gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. six months ago.

Ohanian bought four billboards along Interstate 10 outside Palm Springs in tribute to his wife. The fourth billboard shows a photo of Williams and their daughter with the phrase "G.M.O.A.T'' -- greatest mother of all time --and is signed by Alexis Sr. and Jr.


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