Before Tuesday, Serena Williams hadn't played since splitting two Fed Cup matches in February. File Photo by Ray Stubblebine/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Following a six-month layoff, Serena Williams returned to the court and beat unseeded American Bernarda Pera 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in Tuesday's opening round of the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky.
Williams, the tournament's top seed, dropped the first set and was down 0-40 at 4-4 in the second before rallying to avoid her 14th loss to an opponent ranked outside of the top 50.
"I just knew I needed to be better," Williams said. "I knew I could be better. And it was an interesting game. She had so many winners and [was] so low. I just had to kind of get used to a game a little bit. She played really well."
With the win, Williams advances to the second round and will face off against her older sister, Venus, who defeated Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-2. It will be the 31st career match between the Williams sisters.
Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion, hadn't played since splitting two Fed Cup matches in February, one month before the coronavirus pandemic forced sports around the global to halt.
The Top Seed Open -- the first women's tennis event in the United States since the pandemic struck -- is serving as a warm-up event for players as they prepare for this month's U.S. Open in New York, which will take place Aug. 31 without fans in attendance.
Venus Williams had a much easier match against Azarenka. The seven-time Grand Slam champion led 4-0 in the second set before splitting the last four games to claim her first win in four tries this year.
Venus and Serena haven't played each other since the 2018 U.S. Open. Serena beat Venus 6-1, 6-2 in the round of 32 that year.
Serena Williams returns the ball to her sister, Venus, during their match at the Lipton Tennis Championship in Key Biscayne, Fla., on March 28, 1998. Venus Williams, defeated her sister 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Photo by Susan Knowles/UPI | License Photo