Tennis: Williams shrugs off slow start to win Miami opener

Serena Williams reacts after winning the first set against Yaroslava Shvedova (not pictured) on day four of the Sony Open at Crandon Tennis Center. -- PHOTO: GEOFF BURKE-USA TODAY SPORTS
Serena Williams reacts after winning the first set against Yaroslava Shvedova (not pictured) on day four of the Sony Open at Crandon Tennis Center. -- PHOTO: GEOFF BURKE-USA TODAY SPORTS

MIAMI (REUTERS) - Tennis' world No.1 Serena Williams overcame a wobbly start to open the defence of her Sony Open crown with a spirited 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 win over Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova on Thursday.

Fourth-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova, who lost to Williams in last year's final, turned in a steady opening effort after a shock third-round exit at Indian Wells last week, brushing past Japan's Kurumi Nara 6-3, 6-4.

A six-time winner on the Miami hard courts, Williams' second-round meeting with the 59th-ranked Shvedova was expected to be little more than a tune-up for the 17-time Grand Slam winner but for a brief moment the match delivered some unexpected suspense.

"She was doing a little bit of everything," Williams told reporters. "She was hitting hard; she was hitting soft; she was doing a little bit of everything.

"I was making a little more errors than what I should have been making, what I should've made, and that kind of threw me for a loop, as well.

"She was up a break (in the first set) and I started just really trying to fight to make the shots.

"And then when she was serving for the first set I really just tried to be more Serena like."

The contest began with Williams seizing control 3-1 but Shvedova had a sparse centre-court crowd buzzing after breaking the American twice on the way to a 5-3 lead.

But with Shvedova serving for the match, Williams showed why she is the sport's dominant player breaking her opponent and forcing the opening set to a tie-break.

In the tie-break, Shvedova, who had never taken a set off Williams in three previous meetings, surged ahead 6-3 but then crumbled under the mounting pressure, double-faulting before the defending champion blasted a pair of aces past her.

Williams then clinched the set in emphatic fashion, a crushing forehand followed by an equally forceful fist-pump.

After trading breaks to open the second set, Shvedova would hold serve before a focused Williams moved in for the kill, sweeping the next five games to secure passage to the next round.

"It's definitely going to help, knowing that I was able to pull that through after being down pretty drastically," said Williams, will next face Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, who advanced to the third round with a 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-3) upset of 27th seed Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic.

A five-time runner-up in Miami, Sharapova has her sights firmly set on finally making the Miami's winner's circle but will not face a re-match in the final against Williams, with both on the same side of the draw.

"Obviously I have been close, and I have had my fair share of chances of winning the tournament," said the Russian four-time Grand Slam champion. "Obviously I'm still looking for that.

"But with that said, I have had really great experiences, great matches with her, and it would be really special if I could win it, for sure.

"I expect to win because I have won before. I have won tournaments before."

It was smooth passage for all the top 10 seeds in action.

Fifth-seeded German Angelique Kerber, twice a finalist this season, narrowly avoided an early exit and needed a tie-break to tame China's Peng Shuai 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5).

Eighth-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova advanced with a straight-forward 6-3, 6-4 win over Argentinian Paula Ormaechea. Italy's Sara Errani, the ninth seed, eased past Austrian Patricia Mayr-Achleitner 6-1, 6-4.

Serbia's Ana Ivanovic, seeded 12th, raced into the third round with a 6-1, 6-1 demolition of American Lauren Davis, while Italy's Flavia Pennetta, riding the momentum from her BNP Paribas Open win at Indian Wells on Sunday, moved on with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Belarusian Olga Govortsova.

Former US Open champion Sam Stosur of Australia, the 16th seed, was an easy 6-3-6-2 winner over Netherlands' Kiki Bertens.

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