Serena wins first game in 430 days in Toronto opener

TORONTO, Canada — Serena Williams made a successful return to the National Bank Open on Monday, defeating Nuria Parrizas Diaz 6-3, 6-4 in the first round. The win is Williams’ first singles win since the 2021 French Open. She faces either Belinda Bencic or Tereza Martincova in the second round.

Williams plays her 10th National Bank Open. After making her main draw debut 22 years ago, Williams has won the Toronto title three times. In her last appearance she was in the final in 2019, where she was forced to give up against Bianca Andreescu.

Williams was tested and resilient: The last time we saw Williams on the pitch was a grueling and dramatic first round loss at Wimbledon to Harmony Tan. In a match where she appeared to be in control, Williams failed to wrap up the win despite twice leading with a break in the final set. But it was her first match in a year. Her competition gridlock was understandable.

Against Parrizas Diaz, she showed that she had learned her lesson. Despite the seemingly superficial score, the Spanish lucky loser didn’t make it easy for the 23-time Major champion. Over 1 hour and 57 minutes, Parrizas Diaz found ways to test the American’s patience and rally tolerance. Williams refused to take the bait.

Williams opened the match with a quick 2-0 lead before Parrizas Diaz broke back to level at 2-2. The two traded serves until Williams broke to 5-3 and ended the set in a drawn out service game by converting her fourth set point.

Williams serve comes through: Williams was only broken once in the match, that break coming early in the second set. But she refused to give Parrizas Diaz any notions of a comeback by wiping out six break points in three service games in the second set.

The most critical play of the game came when Williams served 3-4 in the second set. In the longest game of the game, Williams and Parrizas Diaz traded points in a nine-two game in which the American saved four break points before finally holding.

Despite serving more efficiently in the set, the Spaniard surrendered in the next game. Williams broke on her second break point of the set and then ended the win.

Williams finished the match with 32 winners, including seven aces, along with 29 unforced errors. Parrizas Diaz hit 25 winners from 18 unforced errors. Williams saved seven of the eight break points she faced in the match.

Williams should get a big confidence boost: Prior to Toronto, Williams spent the week in Washington DC on the Citi Open practice courses. It was revealed from the tournament’s social media that she spent the hours in challenging physical conditions.

That work paid off immediately when she won in Toronto. Williams was ready to trade measured shots from the baseline before choosing the right shot to unleash. This rally discipline is when Serena is at her most dangerous, and she only comes when she feels secure in her physicality.

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