Serena Williams battled past an inspired Yaroslava Shvedova in a tough two-setter on Thursday to get her campaign for a seventh Sony Open Tennis title started.
WTA Staff

MIAMI, FL, USA - Serena Williams made a winning start to her Sony Open Tennis campaign on Thursday, fighting through a tough first set then rolling to victory against Yaroslava Shvedova.

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After storming out to a 3-1 lead, Williams found herself in all kinds of trouble in the first set as Shvedova caught fire, reeling off four games in a row for a 5-3 lead. But with her back against the wall Williams' fighting spirit ignited - she clawed her way back into a tie-break, dug her way out of triple set point down 6-3 there, and then clinched the 69-minute opening set on a huge backhand winner.

The No.1-seeded Williams would go on to close the match out in straight sets, 76(7) 62.

"She was playing really, really well," Williams said. "When she was up a break I really tried to fight to make the shots. And when she was serving for the first set, I just tried to be more Serena-like.

"She was doing a little bit of everything today - she was hitting hard, she was hitting soft, she was doing a little bit of everything. I was making a few more errors than what I should have been making, what I should have made, and that really kind of threw me for a loop during the match as well.

"But I just tried to come back and stay in the match."

Williams was asked whether pulling that first set out will help her down the road this fortnight.

"It's definitely going to help," she said. "Knowing that I was able to pull that through after being down, and down pretty drastically, I think it's definitely going to help me throughout this tournament."

Williams already has the record for most Sony Open Tennis titles with six - 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2013 - and is one of just four players to win any WTA event six or more times, alongside Chris Evert (who did it at four events), Martina Navratilova (who did it at 10 events) and Steffi Graf (who did it at six events). Evert, Navratilova and Graf also won WTA events seven times or more in their careers, so a Williams triumph this fortnight wouldn't cut that four-player list down by anyone.

One of the reasons Williams does so well in Miami may have come out during her post-match presser.

"I love playing here," the World No.1 commented. "I live really close. I always just drive here, and if I need something I can go home and get it. I just have my whole life here. I train here and all my friends are here. We have so many people that come out, because this is where all of my friends live.

"It's kind of cool to come here year after year and literally play at home in your back yard."

Next up for Williams is Caroline Garcia, who snuck past No.27 seed Klara Zakopalova in a pair of tie-breaks, 76(3) 76(3). Zakopalova was up in both sets - 3-1 in the first set, 4-1 in the second set.

Williams has beaten Garcia in straight sets in both of their previous meetings.