CARLSBAD, CA, USA - Two of the WTA's newest Top 50 players moved into the second round of the Mercury Insurance Open on Monday, as the first round of the Premier-level tournament at the La Costa Resort & Spa took place.
The first to advance was Varvara Lepchenko, who cracked the Top 50 after her third round showing at Wimbledon. Lepchenko cruised against college tennis star Nicole Gibbs, a wildcard entrant this week, scoring a 63 61 victory.
"She's a very good player - at this level I feel it's all about little details, and I think I was able to do those a bit better today," Lepchenko said. "It's taking some time to adjust since Wimbledon - not just the surface, but the balls too - and I was struggling to find my rhythm for a while, but I've started to get it."
Before the spring, Lepchenko had never been past the second round of any Grand Slam - she is coming off a fourth round appearance at the French Open and the third round at Wimbledon. The American is still driven to improve.
"I always focus more on my work than on the rankings, and I feel like all of that will come along," Lepchenko said. "When I look at my ranking recently I'm really happy, and almost surprised, because I really am just focusing on my work, constantly trying to improve little things in my game here and there. I feel there are still so many things I can work on and get even better at, as well."
Lepchenko, who got her US citizenship last year, will also have a very proud moment coming up in two weeks' time - she is on the US Olympic team.
"When you're a little kid watching the Olympics, you wish you can get into that world one day. When that happens, you're like, 'Am I sleeping? What's going on?' You have to slap yourself in the face to realize it's true. Playing at the Olympics is a dream come true. When I see the commercials about the opening ceremony and realize I'm going to be there, walking at it, it's just amazing.
"It's also amazing to realize I'll be walking at that ceremony under the US flag. It's not just any country - it's the leading country in the world."
Urszula Radwanska, who made her Top 50 debut just this week and will also be playing at the Olympics, under the Polish flag, scored the first upset of the week in Carlsbad, winning a tight two-setter against the No.6 seed, Daniela Hantuchova, coming from a break down in the second set to finish it, 64 75.
Radwanska had lost to Hantuchova routinely in their two previous encounters.
"I knew what to expect from her. I know her game. So I was prepared for this match," Radwanska said afterwards. "I just believed in myself. In February when I played her I wasn't that well prepared, maybe a little bit scared, but this time I believed I could do it and played pretty well, in every area of my game.
"The last couple of weeks I've been playing very well. After every match I've been getting more experience and more confidence. Now I believe I can beat even players from the Top 20, and that was one of the keys for me today."
The younger Radwanska has been keeping in touch a lot with big sister, World No.2 Agnieszka Radwanska. "We talk to each other every day actually - even twice a day sometimes! We're Skyping all the time. I'm asking her how things are going at home in Poland, she's asking me how things are going here. We're in touch all the time. She's at home, resting after Wimbledon, but she's also practicing very hard for the Olympics. We usually only talk one sentence about tennis or matches though - most of the time we talk about other things."
The other two matches included another all-American battle between qualifier Alexa Glatch and wildcard Lauren Davis, which Glatch won, 63 62, and Japanese Misaki Doi beating Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito, 67(6) 61 63, missing two set points in the first set but roaring back to win.