Sharapova beats Kurumi Nara 6-3, 6-4

Serena Williams capitalized on a critical double-fault by Yaroslava Shvedova to survive a 69-minute first set and win her opening match at the Sony Open 7-6 (7), 6-2 on Thursday.

“It was an incredibly tough first set,” Williams said. “I just needed to relax and yet keep up the intensity.”

The top-ranked Williams seeks a record seventh Key Biscayne title, and her second in a row.

No. 4-seeded Maria Sharapova, a five-time runner-up in the tournament, joined Williams in the third round by beating Kurumi Nara 6-3, 6-4. Seeded players had first-round byes.

Williams had to erase a 5-3 deficit in the first set, and then fell behind 6-3 in the tiebreaker. Shvedova pushed a forehand into the net, then the Kazakh hit a nervous double-fault that allowed Williams to exhale.

She won the next two points with aces, then closed out the set with a backhand winner, a fist pump and a scream of “Yes!”

Kerber, Ivanovic win

In other women's play, No. 5-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany won her opening match, beating Peng Shuai of China 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (5). Kerber, a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist, matched her best showing at Key Biscayne by reaching the third round.

Ana Ivanovic beat American Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-1, and No. 8 Petra Kvitova defeated Argentina's Paula Ormaechea 6-3, 6-4. Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2006 champion, lost to Croatian qualifier Donna Vekic 7-6 (5), 7-5.

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