Serena Williams wins first match in comeback after giving birth
Serena Williams has won her first match in her comeback in Indian Wells after a 14-month absence from the WTA Tour for the birth of her first child.
Williams, who gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr last September, beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 7-5, 6-3 in their first-round encounter.
"It was incredible," Williams said on court after clinching victory.
"It's been over a year and a kid later and I get to go home to her now, and I'm excited about that."
Williams, who said she "almost died" after giving birth six months ago, has been away from the tour since winning the 2017 Australian Open early in her pregnancy.
Her only competitive appearances since the birth came in December at an exhibition in Abu Dhabi, a Fed Cup doubles match with sister Venus last month and an exhibition in New York on Monday.
"It definitely wasn't easy," Williams said.
"We always have a couple tight sets. It was good. I'm a little rusty, but it doesn't matter.
I'm just out here on this journey and doing the best I can."
With new husband and Reddit co-found Alexis Ohanian — who bought four billboards along Interstate 10 outside Palm Springs in tribute to his wife — looking on, Williams played from behind until breaking Diyas in the 11th game of the first set.
Diyas netted a forehand and Williams yelled "Come on!" as the crowd cheered.
Williams, a winner of 23 major singles titles, served a love game capped by a scorching 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 the crowd gave her a standing ovation.
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.
Williams is playing at Indian Wells under a protected ranking of 22nd. She has not been unseeded at a tournament since 2011 in Cincinnati.
It was pointed out to Williams that it was International Women's Day in the United States.
"I'm so excited to play on this night," Williams said.
"It was meant to be I think. I'm really happy about that."