Serena settles into tournament mode at Indian Wells

Mon Mar 16, 2015 2:18am EDT
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - Two days after struggling with her emotions on her competitive return to the BNP Paribas Open, Serena Williams was in a much more relaxed mood on Sunday as she powered her way into the fourth round.

The American world number one, who made a nervous start before battling past Romania's Monica Niculescu 7-5 7-5 in her opening match, was back to business as usual with a 6-2 6-0 demolition of Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas.

"I was able to relax because I was able to do more of the right things and not make as many mistakes as I did in my last round," Williams, who boycotted the Indian Wells event for 14 years after winning the 2001 final, told reporters.

"I think with that, that helped me to be able to relax even more. It definitely felt back to normal out there. Just trying to feel the rhythm and trying to focus on the ball more than anything else."

Williams, a 19-times grand slam singles champion, had been apprehensive and "a little nervous" after finally deciding to return to Indian Wells after such a long time away.

Fourteen years ago, she was booed by the crowd as she beat Kim Clijsters in the final to win her second title at the California desert resort, where her father Richard Williams alleged he had heard racist taunts.

The heckling by the crowd was in apparent response to Serena's sister Venus having withdrawn from their semi-final that year just minutes before the match, citing injury.

On Friday, however, Serena received a standing ovation before the start of her match against Niculescu, an experience she described as "amazing".   Continued...

Mar 15, 2015; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Serena Williams (USA) during her match against Zarina Diyas (KAZ) at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.  Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports