Saturday, March 14, 2015

Serena wins at Indian Wells after 14-year absence

Serena Williams said Friday night's match was
"one of the proudest moments of my career."
2014 photo by Paul Bauman
   Southern California tennis fans had waited 14 years for this moment.
   Top-ranked Serena Williams returned to the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Friday night after once vowing never to do so, beating Monica Niculescu of Romania 7-5, 7-5 in the second round.
   "I feel like the nerves have kind of gone away," Williams, a three-time champion in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, told reporters after her ragged performance against the 68th-ranked Niculescu, who sliced every forehand and many backhands. "I'm glad I was able to do this. It definitely feels like one of the biggest and one of the proudest moments of my career."  
   The 33-year-old Williams, who drew a first-round bye, received a warm reception from a sellout crowd of 16,100 in Stadium 1. She was booed there during the 2001 final, in which she beat Kim Clijsters for her second title at Indian Wells. Her sister Venus had withdrawn 20 minutes before their scheduled semifinal with knee tendinitis.
    Fans may have suspected that their father, Richard, orchestrated the withdrawal so the sisters wouldn't have to play each other. Richard, however, told reporters that the boos were racially motivated. Or fans might have been upset that they had paid handsomely to see an all-Williams semifinal but got doubles instead.
   During Friday's day session, Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine defeated San Francisco native Sam Querrey 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the opening round. Querrey led 6-2, 3-1 against Stakhovsky, who stunned Roger Federer in the second round at Wimbledon in 2013.
   Jack Sock, making his season debut following hip surgery, outlasted Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-7 (4), 6-2, 7-5.
   In an all-American first-round women's doubles match, wild cards Sloane Stephens and Taylor Townsend edged third seeds and Raquel Kops-Jones of San Jose and Abigail Spears 6-4, 2-6 [10-8]. Kops-Jones, a 32-year-old former NCAA doubles champion from Cal, and Spears were coming off the title in Doha. 
   No. 9 Cal def. No. 65 San Diego State 7-0 in San Diego. Records: Cal 10-2, San Diego State 6-7.
   No. 42 Fresno State def. No. 60 San Jose State 5-2 in Fresno. Records: Fresno State 11-3 overall, 2-0 Mountain West Conference; San Jose State 7-5, 0-1.
   No. 53 San Francisco def. Pacific 5-2 in Stockton. Records: San Francisco 7-4 overall, 2-0 West Coast Conference; Pacific 2-12, 0-2.
   Idaho def. Sacramento State 5-2 in Spokane, Wash. Records: Idaho 9-4 overall, 2-0 Big Sky Conference; Sac State 4-7, 2-1.   

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