World no. 9 and the top seed Serena Williams made a winning start in Lexington, beating Bernarda Pera 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and 16 minutes. It was the 11th match of the season for Serena, the first since the Fed Cup in February, needing some time to find her shots after such a long break and playing at her best in the decisive moments to advance into the next round.
Williams fended off 11 out of 13 break points, securing four breaks to cross the finish line first, surviving a scary moment in the second set's closing stages. Serena wasted all three break points in the opening set, suffering one break that propelled Bernarda into the lead.
In the fourth game, Pera held after two deuces and gained momentum, overpowering Serena to score a break at love and open a 3-2 gap. Serving to confirm the advantage, Pera fended off two break chances with powerful serves, fending off another break point in the eighth game and sealing the opener with a forehand down the line winner two games later for a 6-4.
Both players claimed 39 points in set number two, with Serena coming from the verge of defeat to steal it 6-4. The 23-time Major champion erased nine out of ten break chances to remain in contention, delivering her best tennis when it mattered the most and claiming the set with a late break at 5-4 to prolong the action.
Williams repelled four breaks points in games one and three, stealing Pera's serve in the fourth game and losing the advantage in the very next one to keep the younger American in contention. Facing an ultimate challenge at 4-4, Serena saved no less than four break chances, having no room for errors and passing all the obstacles to bring the game hold and stay in front.
Serena Williams defeated Bernarda Pera 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in Lexington.
As was expected, Williams had a boost on her side, securing a break a few minutes later for a 6-4, forcing the decider. The more experienced player had the upper hand in the decider, dropping seven points in four service games and repelling both break chances offered to Pera, forcing the compatriot to repeat that if she wanted to stay in contention.
Bernarda couldn't match that pace, spraying a forehand error in the fourth game to suffer a break and wasting more opportunities on the return in the next game to push Williams further in front. Serena scored another break at 4-1 and moved over the top with a hold at love, settling the clash against her sister Venus or Victoria Azarenka.