Serena Williams stepped onto a hardcourt for the first time in a year and a half on Monday as she emerged victorious against Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz by 6-3 and 6-4. The 40-year-old American was competing in only her second match this season as she defeated the 57th-ranked player to reach the second round. Williams earned her first victory since last season at Roland Garros, some 14 months ago.
The relieved 23-time Grand Slam winner said the victory boosted her confidence which was dented due to missing out on a number of matches in the past year. “I guess there’s just a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m getting closer to the light,” she said.
“I can’t wait to get to that light. I love playing though, it’s amazing but I can’t do this forever. Sometimes you just want to try your best to enjoy the moments and do the best that you can,” she added.
The opening match took two hours, with the veteran winning a 25-minute game to level 4-4 in the second set. She then served out for victory as she plays the event for the 10th time. Williams won her first title in Canada in 2001 and her third and most recent nine years ago. She defeated Diaz with seven aces and saved seven of the eight break points she faced.
Williams last played in Toronto in 2019, when she had to retire injured after four games to hand over the final to local Bianca Andreescu.
“It’s great to be back in Toronto, I didn’t know if I would be able to play here again. “This being one of my favourite stops on Tour, I was really happy to be here again,” she said.
Another multiple Grand Slam champion also advanced to the second round, with Simona Halep sweeping the opening seven games on her way to a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Donna Vekic. Romania’s former number one and two-time Canadian champion lost no time in collecting her triumph over the number 82 qualifier in 62 minutes on a day where rain threatened.