WTA Indian Wells: Serena Williams Fends Off Challenge Of Yulia Putintseva To Reach Third Round

World number one and two-time BNP Paribas Open champion Serena Williams fended off the challenge of Kazakh Yulia Putintseva 7-6, 6-0 to advance to the third round in the California desert. Williams struggled much of the opening set with unforced errors, before going in cruise control in the second in front of a packed crowd in Indian Wells.

Williams Fights Through Opening Set As Unforced Errors Plague Her

Williams began the match holding in a deuce game after failing to convert her first two game points due to unforced errors. Putintseva then held for 1-1 after the world number one netted a forehand to give the Kazakh the game. Putintseva then blasted two big forehand winners to break the Williams serve, unleashing one of her trademark "Davais." The American then got out to a 40-15 lead in her service game before the world number 56 got a net cord winner to the dismay of the number one. With Williams holding another game point, Putintseva slid and fell, with the American hitting a big forehand down the line for an apparent winner, before the Kazakh challenged to bring the game to deuce.

Putintseva hit a crafty drop shot to gain the advantage, before she hit a forehand long to go back to deuce. The Kazakh hit another big forehand winner before Williams netted a return to gift Putintseva the hold. Williams hit a big ace out wide to bring up game point before Putintseva hit a return long to give the 21-time Grand Slam champion the hold. The Kazakh then held to love due to a forehand in the net from Williams to put Putintseva up 4-2. The two-time Indian Wells champion then got out to a 40-15 lead on her serve before double faulting for 40-30. Putintseva then hit a forehand return long to give the American the hold of serve at 4-3. At 30-30 in the next game, Williams hit a forehand return wide, causing a huge yell in anger from the American.

Putintseva blasted a big overhead winner to take the game to  40-30, before the world number one hit a return long to take the set to 5-3, putting the pressure on Williams to serve to stay in the set. The 21-time major champion cracked down an ace to get to 40-0 before her Kazakh opponent failed to return another big Williams serve. The two-time Indian Wells winner brought up break points with a huge backhand winner, before blasting another to level the set at 5-5. The American then committed three straight unforced errors to give Putintseva a love-forty lead, before Williams hit a backhand wide to give the Kazakh a love break to go up 6-5. With Putintseva serving for the set, her American opponent played a dominating return game to break courtesy of a huge forehand return winner to force a tiebreak.

Williams began the tiebreak with a big forehand winner, looking to find her grove with some big winners. The American then dumped a forehand into the net to level the tiebreak at 1-1. The world number one then hit a big backhand winner down the line to gain a mini break at 2-1. Putintseva then hit tow returns long to put Williams up 4-1. Williams then net a backhand before hitting a return winner to bring the tiebreak to 5-2. The Kazakh then hit two returns out in a row to gift the American the opening set 7-6.

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Serena with a forehand/Getty Images

Williams Powers Through Second Set

The American began the set putting immediate pressure on Putintseva, blasting a forehand return down the line for a winner to gain an early break. In the next game, the world number 56 hit another forehand long to give Williams the hold and an early 2-0 lead. The two-time Indian Wells champion again broke the Kazakh's serve with another big forehand down the line winner. Williams then held for 4-0, before the 21-time major champion took a 5-0 lead with a forehand return winner. The two-time Indian Wells champion then blasted an ace to bring up three match points at 40-0, befriend the American closed it out, cracking another ace down the middle to take the set 6-0 and move into the third round.

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Serena with a backhand/Getty Images

Williams Discusses The Win

"I was just trying to find my rhythm out there," said Williams. "[I was] trying my best to not get off to a slow start. Then I got broken really early and I couldn't manage to break back."

"But I was just trying to fight out there and do what I could,"
added the 21-time major champion.

"She's a good player; we had a tight match before," Williams said during the on-court interview after the match. 

"The first set was a little tricky; I kind of had to figure out and figure out my game, and find that inner tiger and, you know, roar!" Williams laughed, quoting Katy Perry's "Roar," which had been playing as she clinched the 75-minute victory.

"Every time I step on the court, I have a little nerves, especially here. I was down and you guys were just cheering for me and it felt really good, so thank you," the American said thanking the home crowd.

Williams Behind The Numbers

The American served extremely well throughout, blasting seven aces to only two double faults. The world number one made 69 percent of first serves and won 76 percent of those points, but only won 41 percent of second serve points, a key to the close opening set. Williams also returned exceptionally well, breaking on five of her seven break chances, the biggest reason for her win with Williams being able to break with ease. 

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Serena with a backhand/Getty Images

Up Next For Williams

Up next for the world number one is Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko, who won her match today 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 over countrywomen Lesia Tsurenko. Williams and Bondarenko have met twice before, with the two-time Indian Wells champion leading their head to head 2-0, after straight sets wins for the American at the US Open in 2008 and Cincinnati in 2009. Williams will look to use her big power game to cruise past Bondarenko into the fourth round.