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Serena fights back to advance at Miami Open

Serena fights back to advance at Miami Open

KEY BISCAYNE: World number one Serena Williams was forced to regroup but launched her bid for a ninth Miami Open crown by defeating US compatriot Christina McHale 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 here on Thursday.

Three-time defending champion Serena had the match on her racquet before having to withstand a fightback from her 23-year-old rival and taking two hours and seven minutes to reach the third round.Top seed Serena, who watched tournaments at the combined WTA and ATP hardcourt event as a child, will next face Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, who ousted Australian Daria Gavrilova 7-5, 6-3.

Serena fired 13 aces and 36 winners with 43 unforced errors while McHale responded with seven aces and 26 winners against 31 unforced errors.

Serena, whose back-to-back finals losses at the Australian Open and Indian Wells were her first since 2004, served for the match in the 10th game of the second set but netted a backhand to surrender a break.

McHale held and won the first three points of the 12th game off Serena’s serve. The 34-year-old pulled back two but swatted a forehand wide to force a third set.

McHale denied Serena on three break points to hold the first game of the final set but Serena broke in the third and smashed a backhand service return winner to break again in the seventh game.

Serena had to fight off two break points in the final game, saving one with her 12th ace and the other with a service winner, and she blasted her 13th ace on match point to finally advance.

Two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova reached the third round with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over 83rd-ranked American Irina Falconi.

Kvitova next faces Russian 30th seed Ekaterina Makarova, who ousted Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

British wildcard Heather Watson defeated US 20th seed Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-0. She faces Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer in the third round.

Uzbek Denis Istomin rallied to beat Croatia’s Borna Coric 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 to book a Saturday match-up with British second seed Andy Murray, who won their only two matches back in 2013.

Spanish fifth seed Rafael Nadal will open on Saturday against Bosnian Damir Dzumhur, who rallied past Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Japanese sixth seed Kei Nishikori plays his second-round match against French qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who downed Czech Lukas Rosol 7-5, 6-4.

Japanese qualifier Tatsuma Ito beat Nicolas Mahut 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 to book a second-round match with another Frenchman, 16th seed Gael Monfils.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2016

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