INDIAN WELLS: Serena Williams’ return to tennis after a five-week break ended early with her retiring from the BNP Paribas Open because of a viral illness Sunday.

Serena raced to a 3-0 lead over two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza in their third-round match before dropping six straight games and the first set, 6-3.

During the changeover between sets, Serena called for a trainer. She went back out and lost the first game of the second set. The match was soon declared over and Serena walked off the court.

Serena was playing her first tournament since the Australian Open in late January, when she lost in the quarter-finals. After a first-round bye in Indian Wells, she beat Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-3 on Friday night.

Muguruza advanced to a fourth-round clash with seventh-seeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, a 7-6 (12-10), 6-4 winner over Britain’s Johanna Konta.

World number two Simona Halep survived a tough challenge from Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Kozlova to win 7-6 (7-3), 7-5.

The Romanian finally put away the 114th ranked Kozlova with eight consecutive points in the second set, a backhand winner proving the decider just as it had in the first set.

Halep next faces 61st-ranked Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who followed up her win over 2018 finalist Daria Kasatkina with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over 22nd seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

Sixth seed Elina Svitolina, looking for her first title of the year, beat Daria Gavrilova 7-5, 6-4 to advance while Bianca Andreescu, an 18-year-old Canadian, moved on with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Stefanie Voegele.

Chinas Qiang Wang and Australia’s Ashleigh Barty also advanced.

On the men’s side, Roger Federer began his campaign for a record sixth Indian Wells title by defeating German Peter Gojowczyk 6-1, 7-5.

Fresh from earning his 100th ATP singles title a week ago in Dubai, the Swiss fourth seed repelled a tough second set challenge from the world No 85 to book his third-round place.

Federer next faces compatriot Stan Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam champion currently unseeded as he continues his return from injury.

Wawrinka won a taut thriller against 29th-seeded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, finally sealing it on his fifth match point after three hours and 24 minutes when Fucsovics lofted a lob long.

World number two Rafa Nadal brushed aside American Jared Donaldson 6-1, 6-1 and will next face Diego Schwartzman after the Argentine beat Roberto Carballes 6-3, 6-1.

Earlier in the day, Japan’s Kei Nishikori narrowly avoided a second round defeat to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino before battling through 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4). Nishikori next faces 67th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who defeated France’s Lucas Pouille, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

Eighth seeded American John Isner swept past Australian Alexei Popyrin 6-0, 6-2. He’ll play Guido Pella, who ended the hopes of another Aussie qualifier, Alex Bolt, 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 6-3.

Croatian 10th seed Marin Cilic downed Serbian Dusan Lajovic, 6-3, 6-4 to book a meeting with 19-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov, the 24th seed who beat American Steve Johnson, 6-3, 6-4.

Russia’s 14th seed Danill Medvedev beat American Mackenzie McDonald 7-5, 6-0 while other seeded winners included Karen Khachanov and Kyle Edmund.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2019

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