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TENNIS > Serena wins first match at Key Biscayne

KEY BISCAYNE, Florida - The Associated Press

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Serena Williams showed no signs of lacking match practice when she beat Zhang Shuai of China at Key Biscayne in her first tennis match after a two-month absence. REUTERS photo

Serena Williams showed no signs of lacking match practice when she beat Zhang Shuai of China at Key Biscayne in her first tennis match after a two-month absence. REUTERS photo

Serena Williams returned to tournament tennis after a two-month absence and beat Zhang Shuai of China 6-2, 6-3 at the Sony Ericsson Open on March 22.

No. 2-seeded Maria Sharapova overcame 12 double faults and erased 10 break points to rally past Shahar Peer of Israel 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, while No. 4 Caroline Wozniacki beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-4, 6-0.

Two-time champion Kim Clijsters defeated No. 14-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany 6-2, 7-5. No. 13 Jelena Jankovic lost her opening match to Mona Barthel of Germany 6-0, 6-3.

U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur beat Russian qualifier Valeria Savinykh 6-4, 6-0 and American qualifier Sloane Stephens ousted No. 30 Sara Errani 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Williams’ victory also marked her first match at Key Biscayne since she lost to Victoria Azarenka in the final three years ago.

“I was really nervous out there,” Williams said. “I haven’t played here for so long, and I wanted to do well. My worst fear actually was as long as I don’t hit a ball in the stands, I’ll be good. I didn’t do that today, so it worked out well for me.”

Williams, who received a first-round bye because she’s seeded 10th, looked fit but rusty and endured some sloppy moments. At one juncture she froze in a pose behind the baseline, hands on her hips as she fumed after making a flurry of mistakes.

“I got a little frustrated,” she said. “My frustration is more like a motivation frustration, so it helps me.” While her returns were especially erratic, she served six aces and lost only seven of 34 points on her first serve.

Williams said she found her older sister’s first-round victory inspiring. Venus was diagnosed last summer with a fatigue-causing autoimmune disease, and Serena has tried to help her sister adjust to a restricted diet by keeping unhealthy food out of the kitchen.

March/24/2012

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