TORONTO, Canada – Serena Williams returned to the National Bank Open on Monday with a 6-3, 6-4 first-round victory over Nuria Parizas Diaz. The win was Williams’ first singles match win since the 2021 French Open. She will face either Belinda Bencic or Tereza Martinkova in the second round.
Williams will be playing her 10th National Bank Open. Williams, who made her first draw 22 years ago, is a three-time champion in Toronto. In her last appearance, she made the final in 2019 where she was forced to retire to Bianca Andreescu.
Williams has been tested and withstood: The last time we saw Williams on court was a grueling and surprising first round at Wimbledon against Harmony Tan. In a match she seemed to dominate, Williams led twice in the final game but failed to close out the victory. But it was her first match in a year. Her competitive streak was understandable.
Against Parrizas Diaz, she showed that she had learned her lesson. Although it looked like a good result, the Spaniard’s lucky winner did not make it an easy day for the 23-time grand champion. Over 1 hour and 57 minutes, Parizas Diaz found ways to test America’s patience and rallying tolerance. Williams refused to take the bait.
Williams took a quick 2-0 lead and Parrizas Diaz broke back to tie the score at 2-2. The two traded points until Williams made it 5-3 and closed out the set with an extended service game that converted her fourth point.
Williams’ serve coming in: Williams was broken just once in the match, and that break came early in the second set. But Parrizas refused to let Diaz entertain any thoughts of a comeback, picking up six break points in three service games in the second set.
The most crucial game of the match came when Williams was serving at 3-4 in the second set. In the longest game of the match, Williams and Parizas Diaz traded game points at nine deuces, which saw the American save four break points before finally holding.
Although she served more effectively in the set with her care, the Spaniard played in the next game. Williams broke just her second break point to win.
Williams finished the match with 32 winners, including seven aces, along with 29 unforced errors. Parrizas Diaz hit 25 winners to 18 unforced errors. Williams saved seven of the eight timeouts she faced in the game.
Williams should take a big boost of confidence: Before Toronto, Williams spent the week on the practice courts at the Citi Open in Washington, DC. Social media from the race showed her spending hours in challenging physical conditions.
With Toronto’s win, that job was immediately planted. Williams was willing to trade measured shots from the get-go before choosing the perfect shot to release. That support discipline is when Serena is at her most dangerous, and it only comes when she’s feeling confident about her body.