Venus shines as sun returns to Miami Open
By Steve Keating
MIAMI, March 21 (Reuters) - Three-times Miami Open champion Venus Williams lit up centre court by easing past Slovenian qualifier Dalila Jakupovic 7-5 6-3 in the first round as the sun and fans returned to the tournament on Thursday.
After two days of almost constant rain Williams' match on the 13,800 temporary stadium court kicked off a busy day as organisers scrambled to get back on schedule after rain washed away three of the first four sessions.
A move from cramped quarters at Crandon Park on picturesque Key Biscayne to the wide open spaces provided by acres of parking lots that surround the tournament's new home at Hard Rock Stadium aims to give the Miami Open a bright new future.
Finally some of that potential shone through as people filled the spacious fanzone, generating some badly needed buzz.
Williams did her part to get the party rolling by overcoming a sluggish start to book her spot in the second round.
Trailing 5-4 in the opening set Williams stepped up a gear to sweep the next six games, breaking her opponent three times to claim the first set before jumping ahead 3-0 in the second to wake up a sleepy crowd.
Playing in her first WTA premier event, Jakupovic, 27, provided Williams with some early resistance, taking advantage of the 38-year-old American's misfiring serve.
But the former world number one, making a record 20th appearance at the Miami Open, did not panic, breaking Jakupovic with the help of a challenge call that brought a smile to her face to seize control.
"She really plays the angles well and is definitely a real competitor," said Williams summing up her 80th-ranked opponent. "I was just trying to get a feel for what her shot selection is like. That's always really challenging as a new opponent."
On an outside court, another tennis sibling, Mari Osaka, older sister of world number one Naomi, was not having the same success, falling 6-2 6-4 to American wildcard Whitney Osuigwe.
Osaka, ranked 338, will now have to content herself with being a cheerleader for her top-seeded sister who received a first round bye and will open her account against Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, a 3-6 6-3 6-1 winner over American Sachia Vickery. (Editing by Ken Ferris)