Serena Williams’ return to competitive tennis starts at BNP Paribas Open

Serena Williams, who gave birth to her first child six months ago, is scheduled to return to competitive singles play when she faces Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open this week at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, hasn’t played a full tournament since the 2017 Australian Open, when she was in the early stages of her pregnancy with daughter Alexis. Williams is unseeded and is in the bottom half of the draw with her sister Venus. The two could meet in the third round.

Serena Williams, 36, has played a Fed Cup doubles match and some exhibition singles matches since she returned to the court. She experienced complications following the baby’s birth and scrapped her plans to return to the tour at this year’s Australian Open because she said she wasn’t fully fit. Diyas, 24, is ranked No. 53 in the world. Williams has beaten her in both of their previous head-to-head matches.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, who has played a limited schedule because she was reluctant to travel while involved in a dispute over the custody of her young son, and Maria Sharapova, who’s still working her way up in the rankings after a 15-month drug suspension, also are unseeded in this tournament. Both have previously won at Indian Wells. Azarenka will open play against Heather Watson of Britain, and the winner will face U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, who is seeded 13th. Sharapova, in the top half of the draw, will face Naomi Osaka of Japan.


World No. 1 Simona Halep of Romania is the No. 1 seed, with 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark seeded No. 2 and Garbine Muguruza of Spain at No. 3. Defending champion Elena Vesnina of Russia is seeded 24th.

The men’s draw will take place Tuesday. The tournament will award more than $14 million in prize money.