Williams battles on at Sony Open in front of empty seats

Sat Mar 22, 2014 6:21pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

MIAMI (Reuters) - World number one Serena Williams battled her way into the fourth round of the Sony Open with a 6-4 4-6 6-4 win over Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia on Saturday but the six-time champion hardly looked at home on the Miami hardcourts calling her effort unprofessional.

The game's dominant player, Williams, who lives an hour drive away from the Crandon Park complex, has yet to put her stamp on her home tournament, advancing with a pair of labored wins over Yaroslava Shvedova and Garcia.

The hard-hitting Frenchwoman showed no fear, slugging it out with the 17-time grand slam winner for more than two and a half hours before Williams ended the fight with a blistering forehand winner.

"I really gave myself a tremendous amount of trouble out there," Williams told reporters. "Granted she played great but I made so many errors. I hit so short.

"I just have to do better."

A more unsettling sight for tournament officials has been the large swaths of empty green seats, the hometown girl and the biggest draw in women's tennis unable to attract a full house to either of Williams' center court matches.

Meanwhile, Williams' serve seems to have deserted her, the muscular American unable to find her mark against Garcia while firing seven double faults.

A minority owner in the National Football League Miami Dolphins, a smiling Williams stepped out onto center court dressed in the orange and turquoise colors of her team earning the approval of the half empty stadium.   Continued...

Mar 22, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Serena Williams hits a forehand against Caroline Garcia (not pictured) on day six of the Sony Open at Crandon Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports