Serena Stunned as Venus Stosur Survive

Venus Williams and Sam Stosur survived, but three-time and defending champion Serena Williams did not, losing to unheralded Jana Cepelova 6-4, 6-4.

Williams was hampered by a taped left thigh, but credited her 78th-ranked opponent for playing smart tennis.

MORE: Tuesday’s Order of Play | FCC Draws | Serena Goes for Four

“I think she was a great counter puncher today,” Serena told reporters. “I was really struggling with my serve. I didn’t really get any big ones in, so I took the pace off. It wasn’t my day. It wasn’t meant to be.”

It was just Serena’s third-ever loss to a player ranked outside the Top 75 on clay: most recently Virginie Razzano beat her at the French Open in 2011 (ranked No. 111), Klara Zakopalova beat her in Marbella in 2009 (No. 95) and Yung-Jan Chan beat her here in Charleston in 2007 (No. 92).

Serena’s big sister Venus had to use her whole repertoire to fend off another lower-ranked player in Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, 6-3, 0-6, 7-5. The 33-year-old had match points at 5-4 but could not convert.

The 2004 winner here said it was the Charleston crowd that helped buoy her.

“The crowd really boosts me up,” said Williams. “Their whole heart is in it.”

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Stosur, meanwhile, was a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 winner over Yaroslava Shvedova, a former French Open quarterfinalist. After a first-round bye, the No. 7 seed from Australia was the first player to qualify for the third round. Stosur won here in 2010.

Earlier, Charleston native Shelby Rogers did all she could with the local support before falling to No. 12 seed Daniela Hantuchova 7-5, 7-5. Rogers led 5-3 and 5-2 in the first and second sets, respectively, but couldn’t clinch either of them.

2006 Volvo Car Open champion Nadia Petrova suffered the same fast as Serenas as she lost in three sets to Marina Erakovic of New Zealand, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Petrova was a wildcard after taking time away from the tour.

No. 6 seed Eugenie Bouchard made things easier for herself on Stadium Court, winning 6-2, 6-0 in just 58 minutes against Alla Kudryavtseva, a qualifier. A year ago it was Bouchard, then ranked No. 114, who was a qualifier here.

No. 8 seed Sorana Cirstea also lost, downed by Teliana Pereira 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (0) on Althea Gibson Court.

Other winners on Tuesday included No. 14 seed Andrea Petkovic, American Vania King, 2011 finalist Elena Vesnina, Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai.

Photo by Alice Kenney/Volvo Car Open