Tennis: Serena rides on crowd support to win in long-awaited return to Indian Wells

INDIAN WELLS, United States (AFP) - Nothing ever comes easy for Serena Williams at Indian Wells but at least she was able to slay some demons on Friday and get her first victory in 14 years in the books.

The 33-year-old American made an emotional return to the venue she once vowed never to go back to as she beat Romania's Monica Niculescu 7-5, 7-5 in a second-round match.

"It has been worth it coming back and being able to step back out here on the court and create some new memories," Williams said.

The world No. 1 added that she had tears in her eyes as she walked onto the court for her long-awaited return.

"The days, the weeks before, even just the reaction of just being here, I was really a little bit worried about it," Williams said.

While it was only half full at the time, many in the 16,000-seat stadium on Friday stood and clapped as she walked out onto the court. As the match continued, and her unforced errors added up, the yells of encouragement grew louder and louder.

But the positive reaction was everything Williams had hoped for after she decided to bury the hatchet and end her 14-year boycott of the event.

"It felt great walking out here and everyone wishing me well," she said.

"So many people came out. I appreciate the love."

Williams was playing in her first tournament since winning a sixth Australian Open title and 19th Grand Slam title by beating Maria Sharapova in January.

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