| By New York Tennis Magazine Staff
Photo credit: Calvin Rhoden

Serena Williams did not get off to the start she wanted in the China Open’s first-round on Monday, but rallied to defeat Spain’s Silvia Soler-Espinosa 7-5, 6-2 to advance.

Playing in her first match since withdrawing at the Wuhan Open last week, the top-ranked Serena dropped the match’s first five games. She was broken three times in less than 15 minutes and looked just as sluggish as she did at Wuhan. Trailing 5-0 and on the verge of throwing up a first set bagel, Serena put her game into the second gear. The world number one stormed back and won 13 of the next 15 games to knock off the Spanish qualifier.

“I just started hitting a couple days ago, taking it day by day. Finally I decided I’m here, I may as well see what happens,” said Serena on her decision to play in Beijing this week. “I’m feeling a lot better. I have more energy. I look back. Like my eyes aren’t as dead as they were.”

After faltering in her first three service games, the top-seeded Serena regained her form. She ripped nine aces and converted points on 82 percent of her first serves, holding in each of her service games after dropping the first three.

“It was really exciting to come away with the win today,” added Serena. “I got off to a slow start, but I just really, really wanted to win and get some matches under my belt, so it was good.”

Up next for Serena is Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, who cruised past Maria Kirilenko in her opening round match 6-4, 6-1.

Ninth-seeded Ana Ivanovic disposed of Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-1 to advance into the second-round. Bencic fired eight double-faults and surrendered four break points as Ivanovic cruised in an hour and 12 minutes.

The Serbian moves on and will play another Swiss, Romina Oprandi. The 149th-ranked player in the world knocked off Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski 6-2, 6-4.

American Lauren Davis pushed through with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over China’s Yi Fan Xu, while her fellow Americans Christina McHale and Bethanie Mattek-Sands were eliminated by Flavia Pennetta and Mona Barthel, respectively.

On Sunday, Simona Halep, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams all won in straight sets to advance.