World #1 and defending Sony Open champion, Serena Williams played Caroline Garcia of France in the second round of the tournament she's won a record six times. On paper, this could've been chalked up as another easy notch under her belt of Key Biscayne wins, but the young Frenchwoman had other plans as she stretched the top seed to the bitter end and then some.
When you watch Williams play with the lack of vigor and grit that has defined her as one of the greatest to ever play this sport, you know something is wrong or she's just not feeling it and that's exactly how things looked out there during her third round match. Williams lacked the normal conviction and penetration on her groundstrokes that has risen her back up to the top of her sport. Her serve misfired and wasn't in it's normal groove. And she lacked the improved footwork she has acquired the past two years; all in all, it was a tough day at the office for the worlds best player.
During the first set, Williams managed to impose her powerful game but taking it to the young Frenchwoman; taking the returns early and of course firing some aces. There wasn't much Garcia could do to change the trajectory of the first set, but she found a way to stay with Williams and keep proceedings close, which even though she ultimately lost the first set, helped her gain confidence and eventually control in the second set.
Moving through the second set, Garcia managed to pick up her level of play and shock the world #1 and hundreds of fan that piled into Crandon Park to watch Williams dazzle on court. Garcia used her powerful forehand to keep Williams at bay and proceedings started to turn in the youngsters favor as she found herself up a break and eventuallly at a set a piece.
It became very apparant that Williams was struggling with her game and confidence because the wobbliness of her often secure forehand hand returned and she would miss forehands badly. But being the champion that she is, she regained composure and her confidence and secured a birth in the fourth round with a very gritty win over Garcia 6-4 4-6 6-4.
Next up Williams plays the big serving Amercian Coco Vandeweghe who upset Australia's Samantha Stosur; it'll be a match of massive serves and if Williams can manage to find the game that's helped her win six titles at the Sony Open, then there's no reason why we wouldn't see her in the quarterfinals.