CHARLESTON, SC, USA - Playing her first match on clay in almost two years Serena Williams showed the skills that once took her to the French Open title, shining on both offense and defense to beat Elena Vesnina, 63 64.
The last time Williams played on clay was the French Open in 2010, and the last time she played in Charleston was when she won the title in 2008. But it was hard to believe anywhere near that time had passed as she fired 11 aces and broke serve three times en route to the win over 2011 finalist Vesnina.
"I forgot I hadn't played on clay in so long, but that's so true," Williams said. "I really love the clay. I feel like it suits my game. I don't have to go crazy and move my feet so much. And it's no different from hard or grass - I should be able to play the same and do the same, if not better, because I have more time."
The 11th ace actually came at the most critical time - match point. "I pretty much just go for my serve and do the best I can, so I'm glad I'm getting some aces," Williams commented. "It really helps to get a free point. Especially on the last point, you definitely want to hit an ace. It's a lot easier - believe me."
The former No.1, who just got back into the Top 10 this week after making the quarterfinals in Miami last week, also talked about her love for Charleston. "I really love it here. I have so many supporters here, and I absolutely love the food here - too much. Unfortunately I had some banana pudding before I went out. I don't know why I did that. It was so good though. I keep tweeting how I'm having so much trouble with the food. That's actually my Achilles heel, soul food and southern food. Maybe that's why it's been four years since I've been here."
Williams was also asked about going for her 40th WTA title here: "It would be special to do it here. I think Venus has 41 or something like that, 46, whatever. She's ahead of me, so it would be nice to get one any time soon. We'll see."
Serena Williams was one of five players who made the third round Tuesday, along with No.2 seed Sam Stosur, who let a 5-2 second set lead slip but regrouped to close out American wildcard Jamie Hampton, 60 75; No.4 seed Vera Zvonareva, who routed Kateryna Bondarenko, 61 61; No.8 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who came from 63 31 down to beat Eleni Daniilidou, 36 64 64; and Anastasia Rodionova, who pulled off the only upset of the day, scoring a 75 63 win over No.10 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues - but not before the Spaniard valiantly fended off seven match points.
"I'm really looking forward to this part of the season. I hope I can have a good week here," Stosur said. "Today I lost serve for the first time when I was serving for the match, but she played some good points. She probably felt she had nothing to lose and went for it more. But from 5-all I played two good games."
The remaining 11 second round matches are on Wednesday, with No.3 seed Marion Bartoli, No.6 seed Sabine Lisicki and No.7 seed Jelena Jankovic all making their first appearances of the week. Jankovic will play Venus Williams, who won her first round match Tuesday (read more about that here).