Serena Williams conceded she had been rusty on her return to professional tennis after more than a year away from the game but still did enough to secure a 7-5 6-3 win over Zarina Diyas in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday.
Williams, who had not played a singles match since winning the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant, chalked up 27 unforced errors with 34 winners to defeat her 53rd-ranked opponent in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd in California.
After taking a deep breath, she unleashed a second serve that kicked up viciously, forcing Kazakh Diyas to reach high for her return, unable to get it back into play.
The 36-year-old gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia on Sept. 1, but says post-childbirth health complications that included blood clots in her lungs were almost fatal.
The second set was more competitive with Azarenka taking a 4-2 lead before being pushed in a 12-deuce game between the duo but the 28-year-old held on to make it 5-2 and charge to victory.
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