CARLSBAD, CA, USA - America's Top 2 doubles teams made winning starts to their Mercury Insurance Open campaigns Wednesday, with co-World No.1s Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond leading the way into the quarterfinal round.
The top-seeded Huber and Raymond took on a dangerous pair of big-hitters, Mirjana Lucic and Coco Vandeweghe, but with six breaks of serve - three on each of their opponents - they were able to overcome the wildcards, 64 63.
"They're a tough team - we don't see them playing a lot of doubles, which brings out the unexpected factor, but we stuck to our game plan today," Huber said. "We converted quite a lot of break points in the beginning, which is especially tough as Coco has a huge serve, but we managed to put our racquets on it."
"It's always tough playing a team that doesn't really play together, especially two girls who come out swinging like Mirjana and Coco," Raymond said. "Coco's playing very good tennis, serving big - Mirjana the same thing. They both hit a big ball. And it was also an adjustment to get back to this scoring format. It was tough and we're happy we made it through today."
After back-to-back finals at Birmingham and Eastbourne and the semifinals of Wimbledon, and in the three week break before the Olympics at Wimbledon, Huber and Raymond travelled all the way to Carlsbad for this tournament - so there has to be something alluring about the Premier-level stop...
"The climate's wonderful, and there aren't many tournaments you can stay right at the courts, or the resort here," Huber said. "And playing in front of a US crowd is what we dream of. This is why we play tennis - stadiums with lots of fans. This is definitely one of our favorite tournaments of the year."
"This is a wonderful tournament. I've been coming here 17 or 18 years now," Raymond said. "Also we didn't want too much of a break from matches."
And what does the all-American pairing think of the upcoming Olympics?
"If we have a good performance this week we'll go in with confidence, but you can't have too much confidence because other teams are playing very well now," Huber said. "The team that's the fittest and the one that has done their homework will be the one with the gold medal at the end of the day."
"Just being out there with a US flag on your back, there aren't many things more special than that," Raymond commented. "Also, the fact it's at Wimbledon.
"I can't wait to get on that plane to London."
Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, the No.3 seeds this week, joined Huber and Raymond in the quarterfinals with a victory under the lights at night, beating Eleni Daniilidou and Jarmila Gajdosova, 76(5) 64. Daniilidou and Gajdosova served for the first set at 5-4 and had a 4-1 lead in the second set, but both sets the Americans roared back and they closed it out in straights.
Kops-Jones and Spears are coming off their second Grand Slam quarterfinal together at Wimbledon, where they fell to the Williams sisters. Their first Grand Slam quarterfinal together came at the US Open in 2008, where they lost to Spaniards Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual.