This time last year, while making one of her first appearances on tour since the birth of her daughter in September 2017, Serena Williams was stunned by now-World No. 1 Naomi Osaka in the first round of the Miami Open presented by Itaú. In a quick and decisive match, Williams suffered her earliest exit at the Miami Open in her career — having reached at least the fourth round each time before.
This year, she was determined not to relive that moment in an otherwise illustrious career at her home tournament. Despite being broken three times and a sloppy performance in the second set, the 37-year-old took her game to the next level when the moment called for it, beating back her less-experienced opponent, Rebecca Peterson, for a 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 victory.
Williams acknowledged her shaky play, saying, "What was a little frustrating today is I know I can play so much better, but I just wasn't able to produce it today.
"But that's the beauty of fighting, getting through the matches where you're not playing your best, then coming out the next time and just doing better."
Williams raced out to a 40-0 lead in her opening service game before Peterson battled back to break the 23-time Grand Slam champion. However, the veteran shook off the slow start to break back immediately and ultimately took the first set 6-3. The Swede Peterson swung the match in her favor in the second, using some incredible long rallies to frustrate and tire Williams. The set began to slip away from the former World No. 1, with Peterson eventually taking it 6-1.
During the changeover, the winner of eight Miami Open singles titles regrouped and jumped on the 23-year-old’s second serve to give herself two break points early on in the third. Peterson would double-fault to give Williams the early break and all the momentum she would need to carry the third set 6-1 and with it, the match.
Asked what went through her head following the second set that allowed her to play so dominantly in the third, Williams said, "I could not lose this match... At that point it was irresponsible to be playing the way I was playing in the second set.
"That determination — 'I cannot lose this match,' just really kicked in. 'What do I need to do to win this match?'"
The 10th-seeded Williams will now face No. 18 Wang Qiang in the third round.