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By Adrianna Outlaw | Saturday, March 14, 2015

Serena Fan

A young Serena Williams welcomes the world No. 1 back to Indian Wells after a 14-year absence with a sign that recalls the top seed's roots.

Photo credit: Christopher Levy (@tennis_shots)

Fans stood in support of Serena Williams as she stepped on court Friday night ending a 14-year exile from Indian Wells. The rousing reception moved the world No. 1 to tears.

"It was a bit overwhelming," Williams said. "I didn't know what to expect. In fact, I didn't really think about it too much. In the last couple of moments leading up to it I was focused warming up for the match and I wasn't really prepared for that. Like I said, I was overwhelmed by it, and it was such a warm feeling. It made me feel incredibly well."


Initially, an emotional Serena struggled to control her nerves and shots. She was one point from falling into an 0-3 hole against Monica Niculescu.

The tricky Romanian spin doctor mixed her twisting forehand with a potent two handed backhand and served for the first set.

Eventually, the top seed settled in and surged back for a 7-5, 7-5, victory — her first Indian Wells match since she rallied past Kim Clijsters in the 2001 final marred by jeers, boos and controversy.

Serena showed her appreciation meeting with two of her biggest supporters afterward.

Rena's Army mobilized for the Compton native's comeback to the desert.

Power brokers occupied the front row to watch Williams.

Hall of Famer John McEnroe even shaved his budding Torben Ulrich-style beard for the occasion.

"I know her game. I think everyone in the locker room knows her game. But, boy, she was interesting," Williams said of Nicuelscu. "I just never got the same ball or — I did get that forehand a few times, but it was low, high. I just wasn't ablee to get my rhythm today. I'm just glad to get through that match. It was definitely a super tricky match for me."

The historic return all happened on a memorable Friday the 13th.


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