Petkovic, Keys Surprised on a Day of Unexpecteds

Sloane Stephens is ready to make her winning run in Charleston.

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Wednesday at the Volvo Car Open the American 23-year-old fought off a stiff challenge from surprise 2015 quarterfinalist Danka Kovinic, winning in straight sets and a booking a spot in the third round for the second time in five appearances.

It was an up-and-down day for the seeds at the Family Circle Tennis Center, with No. 3 Venus Williams scoring a 6-4, 6-2 win over fellow American Alison Riske.

But it wasn’t to be for other expected winners. 2014 champion Andrea Petkovic fell 7-5, 6-2 to hard-hitting Puerto Rican Monica Puig, while No. 4 seed Lucie Safarova and No. 8 Madison Keys were also shown the door.

Belinda Bencic, the No. 2 seed, was bothered by a bad back in her 6-1, 6-1 loss to 2011 finalist Elena Vesnina. It was a day – in a lot of ways – for the youngsters of the WTA.

Stephens and Puig were victorious on stadium court, as Louisa Chirico (pictured, above), a 19-year-old New York native beat Safarova on Althea Gibson Club Court. She’ll meet Daria Kasatkina, an on-the-rise Russian who barreled who way by Ana Konjuh 6-1, 6-1. Kasatkina, along with another Daria – Gavrilova – are seen as two of the brightest young forces on the women’s circuit.

Other winners on Wednesday included Kristina Kucova, Irina-Camelia Begu, Gavrilova, No. 5 seed Sara Errani, 2010 champion Sam Stosur, Yulia Putintseva, Laura Siegemund and Lourdes Dominguez Lino. Dominguez Lino advanced when Genie Bouchard retired with an abdominal injury at the start of their third set.

Putintseva registered an impressive 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 win over 2009 champion Sabine Lisicki. She’ll next face Venus, who she last battled just this past February, the American winning in two tough sets.

Fans were delighted on Wednesday by the youthful play of Stephens, Puig, Chirico, Kasatkina and Gavrilova. Will one of them use the Volvo Car Open as a springboard to greater things? Perhaps.

What was best to see was the crowd support for good tennis, including a large contingent for the Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Lucie Safarova doubles match to close the day on Althea Gibson Clubcourt. The top seeds were victorious, staying for nearly 20 minutes after the match to sign autographs for waiting fans.