INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - Top seed Serena Williams made short work of Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, obliterating her opponent 6-2 6-0 in just 53 minutes.
Playing her second match at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden after deciding to end a 14-year boycott of the event where she had suffered alleged racist abuse, Williams broke an error-prone Diyas three times in each set to cruise into the last 16.
Britain’s Heather Watson claimed her first victory over a top-10 ranked player with a 6-4 6-4 upset of world number eight Agnieszka Radwanska, while third-seeded Romanian Simona Halep battled past American Varvara Lepchenko 6-1 3-6 6-1.
“Things are going in the right direction,” Australian Open champion Williams said courtside after blasting five aces and an array of searing groundstrokes past an outclassed opponent.
”I was able to feel more consistent today and that really worked in my favor. I‘m really glad to still be here and in the tournament. I love the support.
“I was able to relax today because I was able to do more of the right things and not make as many mistakes as I did in my last round.”
The world number one made a nervous start to her opening match in emotional circumstances on Friday before battling past Romania’s Monica Niculescu 7-5 7-5, saying later she had been overwhelmed by the standing ovation she received from the crowd.
Williams had skipped the showpiece event after winning her second title here in 2001, beating Kim Clijsters in a final marred by some spectators who booed and heckled the American and her family.
The heckling was in apparent response to Serena’s sister Venus having withdrawn from their semi-final that year just minutes before the match, citing injury.
Williams, who claimed her 19th grand slam singles crown at the Australian Open final in January, will next face fellow American Sloane Stephens, who scraped past Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6(4) 1-6 6-4.
Watson broke seventh-seeded Radwanska of Poland in the opening set, then stormed back from 2-4 down in the second to end the match after an hour and a half.
It was the first time Watson had taken a set off Radwanska, having lost in their three previous WTA meetings, most recently in the second round at Indian Wells last year.
“I knew I’d have to play extremely well today, be patient and pull the trigger at the right time,” said the 22-year-old Channel Islander, who is ranked 43rd. “I think I found that balance very well today.”
Eighth seed Ekaterina Makarova of Russia was ousted by Swiss Timea Bacsinszky 3-6 7-5 6-4 while 10th-seeded Czech Lucie Safarova was sent packing 7-6 7-5 by Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.
Editing by Peter Rutherford/Patrick Johnston