A few years after her sister Venus, Serena Williams kicked off her professional career. Serena gained a lot of places on the WTA ranking list in 1997 despite a reduced schedule and kicked off the following season inside the top-100.
Williams earned a place in the Sydney main draw and ousted world no. 3 Lindsay Davenport after a massive battle in sets two and three. The youngster had nothing left in the tank for the semi-final clash against Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, winning only three games after returning to the practice court.
Serena suffered the second-round Australian Open loss to her sister Venus and returned to action a couple of weeks later. Williams grabbed two victories in the Oklahoma City event before losing in the quarter-final, and that was her last preparation ahead of the Miami Open.
Serena Williams was the young gun to watch in 1998.
Serena entered her home event as a top-40 player and defeated Denisa Chladkova 6-4, 6-0 for a winning start. Williams toppled a top-10 opponent Irina Spirlea 7-6, 6-0 to find herself in the third round.
The youngster struggled a bit in the opener, failing to make an impression on the return before delivering a crucial break at 4-5 when her rival served for the set. The American won the tie break 7-4 and gained a massive boost ahead of the second set when she produced a bagel and sailed into the next round.
Serena said she wanted to enjoy herself on the court, playing only her eighth or ninth tournament and wishing to have fun. "Playing at home in Florida, I was a bit nervous in the first set. I stayed in touch until 4-4 when she broke me, and I managed to extend the set and claim it in the tie break.
I hit back more balls in the second set, and I knew that would cause mistakes from my opponent. The first set was challenging, and things became easier in the second. I tried to stay focused even after building a massive lead, as turnarounds are always possible.
This is only my eighth or ninth tournament in my career, and I have to realize I'm just having fun. I have to work on my mental strength and create an edge over the top-ranked players in that segment in the future. I like facing the world's best players, and I have to get ready," Serena Williams said.