Serena Williams beat Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-3 in just over two hours in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open.
Both players returned from maternity leave a year ago at the desert tournament. Since then, Williams has reached two Grand Slam finals and returned to the world’s top 10.
Azarenka is still seeking to restore order in her personal life, having been involved in a legal tussle over her young son.
Williams needed just over two hours to close out the match in which she had four aces and nine double faults. She saved 11 of 15 break points.
Earlier, Sloane Stephens lost to Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland 6-3, 6-0 in just over an hour.
The fourth-seeded American committed 32 unforced errors while Voegele had four aces playing in windy conditions. Voegele improved to 4-1 against the 2017 U.S. Open champion.
No. 2 seed Simona Halep beat Barbora Strycova 6-2, 6-4. Other seeded winners were: No. 12 Ashleigh Barty, No. 20 Garbine Muguruza, No. 22 Jelana Ostapenko, and No. 18 Qiang Wang.
Stephens wasn’t the only seed to be ousted on the women’s side.
No. 14 Daria Kasatkina, a finalist last year, lost to Marketa Vondrousova 6-2, 6-1; No. 19 Caroline Garcia lost to Jennifer Brady 6-3, 3-6, 6-0; No. 27 Su-Wei Hsieh was beaten by Johanna Konta 6-0, 6-2; and No. 29 Mihaela Buzarnescu lost to Daria Gavrilova 6-2, 6-2.
In men’s opening-round matches, Steve Johnson beat fellow American Taylor Fritz 6-3, 6-3 and Stan Wawrinka edged Daniel Evans 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3. Also advancing were Feliciano Lopez and Hubert Hurkacz.
Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked player, won his first-round doubles match with Fabio Fognini. They beat Jeremy Chardy and Milos Raonic 7-6 (5), 6-1.