Serena Williams only had three days to make the transition from hard courts to clay and it showed a few times as she won her opening match at the Family Circle Cup.
The world’s No. 1 player beat Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3 on Tuesday, losing her serve in her second game and looking uncomfortable when the Italian was able to get Williams running.
“It was definitely not great for me. I think I played well, but I wasn’t great footing-wise. I was just trying to get my stability,” Williams said.
Williams was nearly broken again up 3-2 in the first set. She lost the first three points of the game, before rallying back to win the next five.
Giorgi would not get another chance to break Williams for the rest of the match and only won two points against Williams’ serve in the entire second set.
Williams said she figured she would start slow since she had to adjust from the fast, hard surface at Key Biscayne, Florida — where she won the Sony Open for the sixth time on Saturday — to the green, slow clay in Charleston, where she is the top seed.
“It was a little awkward for me,” said Williams, who at 31 is the oldest woman to ever have the world’s top ranking.
She was also facing a 21-year-old rising star in Giorgi, who caught Williams’ eye last year by making it to the fourth round at Wimbledon.
“I actually have been watching her. I think she is a good player and I knew one day I’d be playing her,” Williams said.
Giorgi only had herself to blame for not taking advantage of Williams’ slow start. She had eight double-faults in the first set and 12 for the match. Williams’ broke serve in the first two games as Giorgi’s second serves went into the net each time.
Williams advances to the third round and just as importantly got a day off yesterday. She said she plans on hitting just a few balls, but mostly resting. If last year is any indication, Williams should get stronger as the tournament goes on.
Williams avoided a rash of upsets at the first clay-court tournament of the season. Three of the top seeds were beaten in their opening matches, including No. 4 Sloane Stephens, who lost 6-2, 6-0 to Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
Stefanie Voegele beat seventh-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-4, Jessica Pegula beat No. 8 seed Mona Barthel 7-6, 6-1 and qualifier Vania King defeated No. 14 seed Yaroslava Shvedova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.
All the other seeded players won on Tuesday, including No. 9 seed Jelena Jankovic who beat Melanie Oudin 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in a match that took nearly three hours. It was Jankovic’s first win over Oudin in three matches.
“She has this game that I really don’t like and doesn’t really suit me,” Jankovic said. “I always have trouble with her.”
Jankovic, who won in Charleston in 2007, was not the only former Family Circle Cup champion to win on Tuesday, No. 15 seed Sabine Lisicki, the 2009 winner, beat Anna Tatishvili 6-0, 6-0.
“It’s nice to play on the clay court,” Lisicki said. “The quick turnaround is not always easy, but I love the green clay.”
Other seeded players to advance were No. 10 Julia Goerges, No. 11 seed Sorana Cirstea and No. 16 seed Laura Robson.
In the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and Olga Govortsova of Belarus defeated Latvia’s Liga Dekmeijere and Germany’s Tatjana Malek 6-2, 6-2, while the US’ Megan Moulton-Levy and China’s Zhang Shuai beat Bulgaria’s Jaklin Alawi and the Czech Republic’s Dominika Kanakova 6-4, 6-2.
In the third match, Serbian Jankovic and German Andrea Petkovic fell to Kristina Mladenovic of France and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-2.
Additional reporting by staff writer