Williams ready for long-awaited return at Indian Wells

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Serena Williams, 36, is scheduled to return to competitive singles play at the BNP Paribas Open this week at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Williams, who gave birth to her first child six months ago, hasn't played a full tournament since the 2017 Australian Open, when she was in the early stages of her pregnancy with her daughter Alexis.  The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion is aiming to become the first woman to win three singles titles in Indian Wells, adding to her trophies from 1999 and 2001.

Unseeded Serena Williams is in the bottom half of the draw with her sister Venus. The two could meet in the third round.  Serena Williams will face Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in the first round of the WTA Premier Mandatory event. Diyas, 24, is ranked No. 53 in the world. Williams has beaten her in both of their previous head-to-head matches.

The new mom 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.  Serena Williams has played a Fed Cup doubles match and some exhibition singles matches since she returned to the court.

No woman has won more than twice at Indian Wells. Two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka (2012, 2016) and Maria Sharapova (2006, 2013) will also be chasing a record third title in the desert.

Australian Open champion and current world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, is chasing her first Indian Wells title in seven years. No. 1 seed Simona Halep has won a title at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in 2015.

Serena Williams suffered a semifinals defeat to China's Zhang Shuai at the Tie Break Tens, her first singles competition in 2018.

Zhang, ranked No. 33, has a first-round bye.

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