Serena Williams makes her return to the pro tour after a 14-month absence with a first-round match at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, on Thursday.

She will play Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in a night match at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Williams has played just one Fed Cup doubles match while away from the WTA Tour. The former No. 1 is unseeded and therefore didn’t receive a first-round bye.

The new mother, who gave birth to a daughter in September, will try to become the first woman to win three singles titles in the desert. Her other titles came in 1999 and 2001 before she boycotted the event for several years.

Williams, a winner of 23 Grand Slam titles, is in the same quarter of the draw as older sister Venus. The siblings could face each other in the third round.


NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is the most admired and appreciated player in the league, judging from the 2017-18 NHLPA Player Poll.

A survey of more than 500 players resulted in Crosby’s being voted the most difficult to play against, best role model, best team player, the player you’d want to win one game, and the player who would be a great coach upon retirement. Crosby finished second to Connor McDavid for which player to start a franchise with, and to Wayne Gretzky to the question of picking anyone all time as a teammate.

Players were asked more than 20 questions, with the NHL Players’ Association choosing which to publish. This is in addition to regular conversations with players on topics of importance that include feedback kept internally at the NHLPA.

Among the most interesting responses was that 77.3 percent of players are fine with the way points are decided: two for any win and one for an overtime or shootout loss. But several suggested the international point system of three for a win in regulation, two for a win in overtime or a shootout, and one for an overtime or shootout loss.

The Montreal Canadiens’ Bell Centre was voted the best rink to play in and the home of the best ice, while the Florida Panthers’ BB&T Center has the worst ice, according to players surveyed. Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks, who like Crosby has won the Stanley Cup three times, was voted the coach players would most like to play for.

McDavid not surprisingly was voted the fastest skater, and Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom was voted the most underrated player.


CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala scored twice inside three minutes as Juventus stunned Tottenham to reach the quarterfinals with a 2-1 victory in London on Wednesday.

Juventus had collapsed to a 2-2 draw in the first leg.

Manchester City lost 2-1 to Basel in England for its first home defeat in 15 months but still advanced to the quarterfinals after its 4-0 win in Switzerland in the first leg.


LPGA: Evian Championship organizers will increase the prize money at the major to $4.1 million in 2019.

A first increase of $200,000 will be implemented this year, with an extra $250,000 added from 2019.

Organizers say the increase is aimed at strengthening the event’s “position just behind the U.S. Women’s Open as the second-largest purse of the five majors in the women’s Grand Slam.”

– From staff and news report