KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- 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. In mens play, former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt became the third active man to win 600 matches when he rallied past Robin Haase of the Netherlands 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Fellow Australian Bernard Tomic lasted only 28 minutes in the shortest match since the ATP started keeping such records in 1991, losing to Jarkko Nieminen 6-0, 6-1. Tomic, who won just 13 points, is mounting a comeback from surgery on both hips and was playing for the first time since January. "I did the best as I could," he said. "Hopefully in a little bit of time I can get back to 100 per cent." Williams, who owns a small share of the NFLs Miami Dolphins, wore a dress in the teams orange and turquoise colours -- which may explain her slow start. Or maybe it was because she hadnt played since Feb. 21. 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!" Her game steadied in the second set, when she had 18 winners and only 10 unforced errors -- bad news perhaps for opponents to come in the tournament Williams considers her hometown event. She lives an hour north in Palm Beach Gardens. "I love playing here," she told the crowd. The 33-year-old Hewitt also staged a comeback. With the victory, he joined Roger Federer (942 wins) and Rafael Nadal (675) in reaching the 600 match milestone. "Not many people get the opportunity to get close to that, so it means I have been around for an awfully long time," Hewitt said. "Im getting old. A few years ago when I had the last couple of surgeries, I probably would have doubted Id get to this stage. Im grateful Im out there and able to compete with the best guys." In other womens 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 Argentinas Paula Ormaechea 6-3, 6-4. Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2006 champion, lost to Croatian qualifier Donna Vekic 7-6 (5), 7-5. Fridays stadium court schedule features the winners of 34 Grand Slam titles in five matches. The parade of champions will include Federer, Novak Djokovic, Venus Williams, Andy Murray and Li Na playing their opening matches. Isiah Kiner-Falefa Jersey
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. Griffin scored 13 of his 31 points in the final 7:05 and Dudley got 11 of his 20 points in the third quarter, leading the defending Pacific Division champions to a 112-85 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night. "Dud is a shooter.TORONTO - As the country celebrated Canada Day two years ago the Raptors sent a small army to Manhattan, led by then general manager Bryan Colangelo, in an effort to recruit the most coveted free agent point guard on the market. The Raptors contingent - which included Dwane Casey, Jay Triano and Larry Tanenbaum - pulled out all the stops trying to sell Canadas own Steve Nash on a move to Toronto. After a two-hour meeting, highlighted by a video presentation featuring hockey icon Wayne Gretzky, the Raptors left Nash with a generous offer. Days later he turned them down, opting for less money and a better shot at a championship in Los Angeles. Colangelo went forward with his Plan B, a trade for Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry. Now the Raptors find themselves in a similar predicament, only this time the approach couldnt have been more dissimilar. They didnt send a front office mob, there was no video cameo made by The Great One. This time they left the kitchen sink in Toronto. Instead, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri and head coach Dwane Casey had a quiet sit down with Lowry in his hometown of Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon. True to form Ujiri and his coach exuded confidence. Calm, cool and collected, the Raptors brass did not find it necessary to camp out on Lowrys front porch at 12:01 AM, the time in which teams were able to officially commence negotiation with free agents. Their sales pitch centred on a simple premise, one that the team had already been preaching publicly for months - they want him back. What they didnt say, and would be reluctant to admit, is that they need him back. Rightly or wrongly, the perception that players dont want to come to or stay in Canada has dogged the Raptors since their inception. After all, Nash wasnt the first player to spurn the Raptors. Theres a long history of it in fact. Damon Stoudamire was the first star to want out, followed by Vince Carter - the franchises best player - seven years later. Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh each bolted via free agency, while both Kenny Anderson and Alonzo Morning refused to even put on the jersey. The new regime intends to snuff that stigma once and for all. Along with MLSE boss Tim Leiweke and global ambassador extraordinaire Drake, Ujiri has helped empower a fan base that had lost hope prior to their arrival a year ago.dddddddddddd "Why cant I change it," Ujiri said, challenging that perception as he was introduced as the Raptors new GM last June. "Its our job to make it better, its our job to make it good, its our job to create a winning environment and thats why Im here." With the embattled franchise finally on the precipice of turning the page and changing a culture that has beset them for the better part of the last 20 years, the stakes are much higher now than they were in 2012 when they struck out on Nash. For all the progress the Raptors made in 2014, turning heads as a result of their breakout campaign, spirited playoff run and We The North campaign, the wind could be taken out of their sails in a hurry should Lowry fly the coop, especially if he leaves for Houston or Miami. This is their first big test, one they dont intend to - and cant afford to - fail. Lowry is Torontos No. 1 priority, theyve made no secret of that. "Were going to go full force," Ujiri promised last week. And they have. The Raptors initial offer to Lowry was substantial, said to be in the $11-$12 million range annually over a four or potentially five-year term. A salary in that range would make Lowry the seventh highest paid point guard in 2014-15, not including Kyrie Irving whose max extension wont take into effect until the following season. Of course, theres more to Ujiris pursuit of Lowry than just pride. The Raptors GM would happily show Lowry, or any other player the door if he felt theyre not worth their price tag. Like any other investment, Lowry is a calculated risk but the Raptors are betting the 2013-14 version will be more of the norm than an anomaly going forward. Its because hes a player worthy of the money that Ujiri has done - and will continue to do - everything in his power to keep Lowry in a Raptors uniform. Still, the decision belongs to Lowry. The 28-year-old will take a few days to weigh his options with his family and agent Andy Miller as Raptors fans hold their collects breath. With Torontos 20th year anniversary season around the corner, keeping Lowry would go a long way in the continued saga to rewrite the franchises troubled history. ' ' '