MIAMI - Serena Williams steps back into her comfort zone as the world number one begins her campaign to defend her title at the Miami Masters tennis tournament on Thursday.
The 32-year-old last played while suffering back pains in a semi-final loss a month ago in Dubai, going down to Alize Cornet of France.
After bypassing the Indian Wells tournament again because of a family feud with organizers which has lasted for 13 years, the 17-time Grand Slam winner said that she cannot wait to get back on court.
"This is home, I don't have to travel and I train her a lot at the courts," Williams said. "I'm used to the conditions, the wind and the heat. I've been waiting for this for quite awhile." The American said her back is not currently a problem, adding that a treatment regime seems to have done its job.
"I have to do a lot to make sure it stays loose, but it's not a worry now." The top seed - ahead of China's Li Na and Indian Wells finalist Agnieszka Radwanska - opens play against the winner between former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan.
Williams will be glad to get back to the heat of WTA competition although she also cannot help but feel a few nerves.
"I feel disappointed when I cannot play my best in a match, like I've let the fans down. There is always tremendous pressure and I actually feel it more in the early rounds than maybe the later ones.
"But I'm super-psyched right now, I'm ready to play. It can get so boring just training, even if I know it's all part of the big picture. I'm still so eager to compete, I don't see an end to my career anytime soon." While Williams is optimistic, Radwanska is cautious, revealing little about the state of her sore left knee. The Pole has yet to lift a title in 2014 after winning three last season.
"I've still got a few days until I play," said the third seed, who gets a bye into the second round and could start as late as Friday. "I'm taking lots of treatment, that's all I can do." Last year's finalist, Maria Sharapova, has put her third-round loss at Indian Wells behind her.
She is now looking ahead to her chances of a first Miami title after losing five finals.
"This is a huge tournament with all the big players here. To win it is always a goal," said the Russian, who lost the 2013 final to Williams and has not beaten the American since 2004. "I've always said to have a rivalry, I have to start winning a few matches against her." Unseeded women began first-round play on Tuesday while men go into action in the ATP event on Wednesday.