MIAMI, FL, USA - Two Fridays ago, Serena Williams made her long-awaited return to the BNP Paribas Open, playing one of the trickiest players on the tour - Monica Niculescu - in her first match at the Premier Mandatory-level event in 14 years. She won that one - watch highlights in the above video.
Well, it didn't take long for the rematch. Niculescu won her first round match at the Miami Open on Tuesday to set up a second round clash with the No.1-seeded Williams, who has a first round bye.
Niculescu was in trouble early on against Shelby Rogers, even facing a set point serving at 3-5, 30-40 in the first set, but she battled back to take that 64-minute opening frame and ended up cruising to victory against the WTA Rising Star in the second set, eventually closing it out, 7-6(1), 6-1.
Now the Romanian will face Williams again - last time she pushed her to a 7-5, 7-5 scoreline.
"I actually felt really good on the court," Niculescu said after their Indian Wells clash. "I was surprised, because I didn't know how I'd react, but going out on the court, I just felt amazing. It was great.
"I think I played pretty well. I'm happy. And the crowd was very nice. At the beginning I had so many emotions because I saw the crowd standing up when Serena came on the court, but I felt good."
Niculescu also gave all kinds of props to the World No.1's legendary game that night.
"She's an amazing player," the Romanian commented. "When she's tossing the ball to serve, you cannot see exactly where she'll be hitting it. So I was guessing. Just guessing. That's why she hit so many aces. I was trying to put all the balls back, but she was acing me all the time. It wasn't easy."
Other afternoon winners were Madison Brengle, Kaia Kanepi, Johanna Larsson, Karin Knapp, Anna Schmiedlova, Kristina Mladenovic and the two youngest players in the Premier Mandatory-level draw, 15-year-old American CiCi Bellis and 17-year-old Spaniard Paula Badosa Gilbert, both wildcards.
The qualies also wrapped up, with Alexandra Dulgheru, Marina Erakovic, Timea Babos, Pauline Parmentier, Evgeniya Rodina, Irina Falconi, Stefanie Voegele, Kateryna Kozlova, Tatjana Maria, Alison Van Uytvanck, Sesil Karatantcheva and Urszula Radwanska all snapping up berths in the main draw.