Back On Top: Serena Becomes Oldest No. 1 at 31

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Among those to pay tribute to Williams again becoming No. 1 was Maria Sharapova, the American’s next opponent, who said it proved the staying power of the game’s older players.

“It just shows you how the generations have shifted a bit,” Sharapova said. “Maybe five, 10 years ago you saw a lot of the younger players achieving much more success and winning Grand Slams. And now you see Li Na and Serena doing so well … It just shows you how if you stay healthy and you’re able to keep working hard, the things that you’re able to achieve in tennis at that age.”

Kvitova, who has never beaten Williams, called her a deserving No. 1.

“She played so well last season. She won almost everything,” she said. “That just took some time to be No. 1 for her and she is right now, and she deserves it.”

It wasn’t a dominating performance Friday. Erratic at times and appearing to favor a right ankle she injured at the Australian Open, Williams committed 31 unforced errors and hit eight double-faults.

She also struggled early on with the Czech’s serve and forehand in the first set. But her own serve saved her, especially in the second set when she went on to win 13 of the final 14 points, pumping her fist several times and screaming — the first signs of emotion to be seen from her thus far in the tournament.

Down 4-1 in the deciding set, Williams broke Kvitova when she double-faulted to make it 4-3. Though it seemed the match would go to a tiebreaker, Williams broke with a wicked crosscourt backhand to make is 6-5 and won it with one of her 14 aces.

“I stuck in there, and I just never gave up. I always felt like if I can just keep fighting and I can just try to do it,” Williams said. “I definitely did not play great. With that being said, Petra played unbelievable, and she was just hitting shots I had no chance to get; I don’t think anyone on this tour could have gotten.”

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