Sports BNP Paribas Open; Serena Williams qualifies for next stage


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World number one, Serena Williams for the first time in 14 years returned to the BNP Paribas Open as she battled Monica Niculescu in a keenly-contested game for more than two hours before she could progress to the next stage of the championship.

The World No.1's second match back on Sunday afternoon couldn't have been more different.

Williams, who has clinched the Indian Wells title twice defeated world number 28 seed Zarina Diyas in just 53 minutes on center court, 6-2, 6-0, allowing Diyas a love service hold in the very first game of the match but then reeling off 12 of the next 13 games for an absolute runaway victory.

Williams was asked afterwards about the stark contrast between her first two matches here.

"I was just trying to get there and win my match in the first round," she said. "I ended up playing a girl who was super tricky, and I was trying to stay focused, plus all the other stuff going on. But yesterday was super relaxing. It was good to have a day off to have a chance to prepare for my next match.

"Today it definitely felt back to normal out there, just trying to feel the rhythm and feel the ball. I was able to do more of the right things and not make as many mistakes as I did in my last round."

"I feel like I can do a lot better in terms of just being mentally prepared and mentally ready," Williams said. "I'm just going to try and keep going."

Awaiting Williams in the next round is Sloane Stephens, who followed up her second round upset of No.13 seed Angelique Kerber with a 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-4 victory over No.22 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Williams leads Stephens in their head-to-head series, 2-1. They haven't played since 2013.

"I've had some tough matches with Sloane," Williams said. "She's had an interesting year, but I've noticed she's been playing really well. She moves well and tries to do her best for everything.

"It will be an interesting, good match-up for me."
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