STANFORD, CA, USA - College tennis star Nicole Gibbs made a winning WTA debut at the Bank Of The West Classic on Tuesday, beating Noppawan Lertcheewakarn in the first round, 64 64. And the 19-year-old American will continue her smooth transition to the WTA against... Serena Williams.
Gibbs, who pulled off the rare feat of winning both singles and doubles at the NCAAs this year, will face Williams in the second round on Wednesday in Williams' first match since winning her 14th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon.
"I'm so in awe of her. She was one of my idols growing up. I'm just going to be so honored to be on the court with her tomorrow," Gibbs said. "I was her ballgirl once when I was 12 years old. I spoke to her briefly in the locker room there. We got to hit with them for five minutes and it was the best memory of my life.
"For me it's already a dream to be on the court with someone that great."
Did the potential of a match with one of her idols affect the World No.403?
"I couldn't have been more nervous today if I tried," Gibbs said. "It was an added level of excitement, definitely, which may have translated into nerves - but it was incentive to stay in the points and fight harder, so it actually served me well.
"I'm going to be nervous tomorrow, there's no question about that, but I couldn't have any less pressure on me. It's just going to be an experience I'll have to enjoy. Hopefully I present myself as competitive in that match."
A year ago at this time Williams was just starting her comeback to the WTA from a year-long battle with injury and illness, this being her third event back - and she won it. It kicked off an 18-match summer hardcourt winning streak that brought her titles here and in Toronto and all the way to the US Open final.
The former No.1 commented on the difference a year has made. "I have a much better ranking now and I obviously have a lot more confidence," she said. "And I've just won Wimbledon, in singles and doubles - I didn't do that last year.
"I wanted to come here more than anything. This is where it all began last year. Getting on that plane from London and coming here and playing is the best thing I could have done. I just want to enjoy the moment right now - you never know when you're going to feel this great and this healthy, so you've got to enjoy it."
Also among the winners on Tuesday was Urszula Radwanska, who rallied past Eleni Daniilidou, 36 63 64. Radwanska - who reached her first WTA final just before Wimbledon at 's-Hertogenbosch - is the younger sister of Agnieszka Radwanska, who just reached her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon.
"I woke up at 6am to watch her live! Unfortunately she lost. I wish I could have been there with her, but I have my own career and had to come here. During the match I wasn't nervous but afterwards when she cried, I was crying as well.
"She's not that emotional. Even on the court she's always really serious with a poker face, not showing any emotions at all. I think she cried because she was so happy to be in the final, not because she was sad. I spoke to her right after, and she was so happy about the whole tournament. I was so proud of her."