Sony Open: Williams, Sharapova win
Serena Williams won her match against Yaroslava Shvedova 7-6(9-7) 6-2.
MIAMI - World number one 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.
A six-time winner on the Miami hardcourts, Williams' second round meeting with the 59th-ranked Shvedova was expected to be little more than a tuneup 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.
In the tiebreak, 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.
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 five-time runnerup 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 Sharapova. "Obviously I'm still looking for that."
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 third set 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 Argentine 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 Parisbas 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.
LLEYTON HEWITT'S 600TH
Lleyton Hewitt's 600th win looked very much like every other of his ATP Tour career as the Australian battler scraped his way past Robin Haase 3-6 6-3 6-3 in the first round of the Sony Open on Thursday.
In a testament to his tenacity, Hewitt became just the third active player to achieve the milestone, joining an elite group that includes two of the all-time greats, Roger Federer (937) and Rafa Nadal (674).
"Today was just like another match and an opportunity to go out there and play well," Hewitt told reporters. "Obviously afterwards, you know, a great milestone, not many people get to achieve that."
The fighting spirit and raw aggression has carried him to the top of the world rankings, 29 career titles, including Wimbledon and US Open crowns.
Meanwhile, Andy Murray will not be the only top seed at the Sony Open without a trusted coach by his side as Novak Djokovic said on Thursday that Boris Becker will miss Miami to undergo double hip surgery.
"He has surgery of both hips today and tomorrow, so that's unfortunate. He couldn't come, he was supposed to come here," Djokovic said during a pre-tournament news conference.
While Becker recovers, world number two Djokovic arrives in Miami fresh off a confidence-boosting win over Roger Federer in Sunday's final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
It was the first win of the season for the Serb, who joined forces with the German tennis great last December after losing grand slam finals in 2013 to Spain's Rafa Nadal (US Open) and Briton Murray (Wimbledon).
Djokovic expects Becker to be back with his team in Monte Carlo next month and otherwise expects no other disruptions to their schedule.