STANFORD, CA, USA - There were some notable fightbacks as the first round of the Bank of the West Classic kicked off on Monday, with former US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer among those digging out of tricky holes.
Wickmayer, who reached the final four of the US Open three years ago and is the No.5 seed here, had to rally from a break down three times in the third set to get past hard-hitting Taiwanese Chang Kai-Chen in a nail-biter, 75 26 75.
"The first match is always tough," Wickmayer said. "Especially coming from Wimbledon, where you have to adapt to the hardcourt surface again. I thought I stayed positive and played well in the good moments. I'm happy to pull through."
The only other seed in action, No.6 seed Chanelle Scheepers, also had a fight on her hands, rallying from 1-4 to take the first set and 0-2 to take the second set, eventually beating American qualifier Grace Min comfortably, 64 64.
In matches involving unseeded players, Heather Watson showed off some impressive fitness in the third set of a 76(5) 46 61 win over Sloane Stephens; Portuguese wildcard Michelle Larcher de Brito won 11 straight games from 75 20 down and eventually closed out Jarmila Gajdosova, 57 62 63; and American lucky loser Coco Vandeweghe downed Melinda Czink, 64 61.
"I started really slow in the beginning; I think the center court is actually a little slower than the outside courts, so my game was a little off," Larcher de Brito declared. "But I had to change my attitude and stay positive. Once I started playing aggressively and was going for my shots, I managed to adapt."
It hasn't been a great last few years for Larcher de Brito. Since the US Open in 2010 the Portuguese is playing in just her second WTA-level main draw, having also played in Birmingham just a few weeks ago (reaching the second round).
"I was so happy and really grateful when I found out I was getting a wildcard for the tournament," Larcher de Brito said. "I haven't had a wildcard at a WTA event for quite a while. It's an opportunity to play in the main draw of such a big tournament. I love this tournament, I love California and I love playing here."
Fans from Stanford may remember Larcher de Brito as a 15-year-old in 2008, when she had Serena Williams on the ropes at this event in the early rounds, 64 20, before eventually succumbing, 46 63 62. Now 19, she seems to be rising up again, beginning with Birmingham and the momentum now moving here.
The first round will wrap up on Tuesday, with the second round beginning on Wednesday - including freshly-crowned five-time Wimbledon and 14-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams' match, an afternoon match.