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.
Mar 8, 2018; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Serena Williams (USA) reacts after wining her first round match against Zarina Diyas (not pictured) at the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
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.
Williams was only two points from dropping the opening set but showed the sort of poise that has earned her 23 grand slam singles titles.
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.
Williams is unseeded at Indian Wells, which is why she had to play the first round while the seeds, including sister Venus, enjoyed a bye.