Venus Williams returned to clay-court action at the 2012 Family Circle after an absence of about two years on the surface. A bout with the autoimmune disease Sjogren's Syndrome kept her from the game for almost six months between the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 Sony Open. She reached the quarterfinals here a year ago, falling to Samantha Stosur to prevent an all-Williams semi that time.
Safarova, who lost to Serena Williams, 6-0, 6-1 in the 2012 finals, led in the opening set and had a point to go up 5-2. Instead, Williams rallied back from deuce and won the final four games to take the set.
Williams' big serves and power game smothered Safarova after that. Williams served a 106 mph ace to set up match point, then chased down Safarova's drop shot to take the match — and give herself a well-earned rest.
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