Serena Williams

was greeted with sustained applause from a half-full stadium Friday night before her first match in 14 years in Indian Wells, Calif.

The top-ranked women's player had stayed away from the BNP Paribas Open since winning the 2001 title as a 19-year-old, getting booed by the fans for what happened a day earlier, when she was to play older sister Venus in a semifinal and Venus withdrew because of injury 20 minutes before the start.

Williams faced Monica Niculescu of Romania in a second-round match. Earlier, Sloane Stephens upset 13th-seeded Angelique Kerber, 7-6 (6), 6-2, in second-round play.

On the men's side, Donald Young, Steve Johnson, and Jack Sock advanced to the second round.

Venus Williams hasn't changed her mind about boycotting Indian Wells. Serena had vowed she would never play in this tournament again. Her decision was partly based on wanting to raise awareness for Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair treatment.

GOLF Brendon de Jonge rolled in a pair of long putts on his way to a 2-under-par 69 and the 36-hole lead in the Valspar Championship on Innisbrook's Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla.

Only 7 shots separated de Jonge at 6-under 136 from the players who made the cut on the number, the smallest first-to-worst gap since the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George's. Sean O'Hair was at 138 after a 72.

Tiger Woods said he will not play in next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, skipping the tournament he has won eight times to continue working on his game after suffering tightness in his back.

BOXING The Philadelphia Historical Commission voted to include the front facade of the Legendary Blue Horizon boxing venue at 1314 N. Broad Street on the local Register of Historic Places. But it rejected a nomination to protect the interior auditorium, which the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia had sought.

- Staff and wire reports