KEY BISCAYNE, Florida (AP) — Serena Williams returned to tournament tennis after a two-month absence and beat Zhang Shuai of China 6-2, 6-3 at the Sony Ericsson Open on Thursday.
It was also her first match at Key Biscayne since she lost to Victoria Azarenka in the final three years ago.
Williams looked right at home, and not just because her purple dress matched the color of the court. The five-time champion lives two hours up Interstate 95 in Palm Beach Gardens.
Health issues prevented Williams from playing at Key Biscayne in 2010 and 2011, and a left ankle injury has slowed her this year. Aside from two Fed Cup victories in February, she was playing for the first time since she lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open.
Williams, who received a first-round bye because she’s seeded 10th, looked fit but rusty and endured some sloppy moments. At one juncture she froze in a pose behind the baseline, hands on her hips as she fumed after making a flurry of mistakes.
While her returns were especially erratic, she served six aces and lost only seven of 34 points on her first serve.
Two-time champion Kim Clijsters defeated No. 14-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany 6-2, 7-5. No. 13 Jelena Jankovic lost her opening match to Mona Barthel of Germany 6-0, 6-3.
American Ryan Harrison, a wild card entry, rallied past Polito Starace of Italy 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-4 and will next face two-time champion Roger Federer. The match will be a gauge of progress for the 19-year-old Harrison, who is ranked 73rd but has yet to beat a top-10 player.
“He’s very talented,” Federer said, “and I’m sure he’s going to be making his move up the rankings very easily this year and in the coming years. He has a big game.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.