INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA (REUTERS) - Venus Williams played through illness to win a seesaw opening-round match against German Andrea Petkovic 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 at the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday (March 7).
Williams, who received medical attention from a trainer late in the first set, saved her best tennis for the biggest moments, breaking Petkovic for a sixth time in the final game to make up for a dismal second set.
Asked in an on-court interview to describe the encounter, the 38-year-old former world No. 1 was almost at a loss for words.
"I don't know honestly. I'm still trying to figure it out," she said to laughs from the crowd on a sunny and windy day in the California desert.
"Every day is not your best day but that doesn't mean the heart and desire aren't there."
In the men's draw, American Sam Querrey bounced back from a sluggish start to claim a 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 6-4 win over Matteo Berrettini during a windy first-round match.
The hard-hitting Californian was in a hole at 3-0, 40-0 down in the first set but rallied to break back and ultimately force a tiebreak that he won to the delight of the partisan crowd.
Berrettini came out in full force to win the second set but Querrey's blistering serve, highlighted by an unreturnable second serve on match point, eventually proved too much for the Italian.
"It was windy all day, which made things tough. It was one of those matches I'm happy to just kind of get through it," Querrey said after the match.
Next up for him on Saturday (March 9) is a rematch with 13th seed Milos Raonic, who won their Indian Wells quarter-final contest a year ago.
Williams' match was just her seventh of the year and the first since January's Australian Open, where she fell to Simona Halep in the round of 32.
The win sets up a mouthwatering second-round clash with third seed Petra Kvitova, who holds a 4-2 edge in their previous meetings.
Canadian Eugenie Bouchard also required medical attention during the second set of her closely-fought evening match against Kirsten Flipkens, where she fell 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 to the Belgian.
It was unclear what the problem was with Bouchard, who held a towel to her face while trainers attended to her during a medical timeout. But she appeared fine after the break.
The marathon battle included fantastic points from both players but Flipkens was ultimately the sharper of the pair, smacking a forehand winner cross court on match point to advance to the second round of the tournament for a fifth time.
Other first-round winners included Estonian Kaia Kanepi, Japan's Misaki Doi, American Madison Brengle and Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Earlier in the day, world No. 28 Grigor Dimitrov withdrew from the tournament with a shoulder injury. The Bulgarian has not played since the Australian Open and will look to return to the court at next month's Miami Open.