Top-seeded Serena Williams rallied from one set down to beat hard-hitting teenager Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday in the second round of the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California.
Williams looked completely out of sync for much of the match. Against a 15-year-old qualifier no less.
"It's definitely encouraging to know I can bounce back. I haven't been down a set for a while," Williams said. "It's the kind of practice I need."
Williams, playing her first match since losing the Wimbledon final to sister Venus, had eight unforced errors in the first 12 points. She sprayed her typically reliable groundstrokes long and wide. She hit ball after ball into the bottom of the net and regularly missed first serves.
Larcher de Brito slipped and hit a backhand into the net on match point and Williams came around the net to shake hands moments later.
It was the gutsy Larcher de Brito - who grunted loudly on every shot and pumped her fist on both her own winners and Williams' unforced errors - who was the aggressor until her opponent with eight grand slam titles woke up in the second set.
"I started off really well. I think I played pretty good throughout the whole match," Larcher de Brito said. "I kind of slowed down a little bit. I came through qualifying a little tired. She played a great game. She is Serena Williams. I didn't have much to lose."
The 26-year-old Williams is playing in her first Bank of the West event after being scheduled to appear three other times only to withdraw. She is looking for her fourth title of 2008 and 32nd of her career. She will next play the winner of the second-round match between Russia's Alisa Kleybanova and fifth seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, in the quarterfinals.
Earlier, Ai Sugiyama of Japan ousted fourth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 6-3, 6-1 to advance to the quarterfinals and will face another Slovak Dominika Cibulkova, a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Kateryna Bondarenko of the Ukraine.
Also, second-seeded Anna Chakvetadze of Russia beat Shahar Peer of Israel 6-3, 6-4.
In Indianapolis, Gilles Simon used a simple serve-and-volley game to beat Germany's Benjamin Becker 7-5, 3-6, 6-0 and reach the quarterfinals of the Indianapolis Tennis Championships on Wednesday.
"I just tried to put the ball inside. Nothing more," the Frenchman said. "I don't know why I lost the second set and won the third set 6-love."
Also advancing was German No. 5 Tommy Haas, who used an accurate service game to sweep American John Isner 6-3, 6-4.
(Agencies via Shanghai Daily July 18, 2008)