Welcome back, Venus Williams. Now comes the hard part.
The 31-year-old former No. 1 player looked like her vintage self for long stretches Tuesday, ousting Iveta Benesova, 6-4, 6-3, at the Family Circle Cup. But as unseeded Williams ?attempts to continue a comeback from a fatigue-zapping autoimmune disease, she must deal with a fellow former Family Circle Cup champion on ?stadium court tonight: No. 7 seed Jelena Jankovic.
“This is great for me to be in another match and to be in the second round,” Williams said. “This is a little new for me nowadays, so I’m going to go out there and try my best. I know it’s a great surface for her and she always gets comfortable on the clay, so I know I have to play well.”
Williams last month made it to the quarterfinals in Miami, her first tournament singles action since the 2011 U.S. Open. A winner of seven Grand Slam singles titles and the 2004 Family Circle Cup, Williams is ranked No. 87 on the WTA Tour.
Jankovic won the Family Circle Cup in 2007.
Williams has been practicing with her father, Richard Williams.
“More than anything I just was having really light practices and just trying to conserve all my energy for the tournament,” she said.
Also in early-round action Tuesday, No. 2 seed Samantha Stosur defeated unseeded American Jamie Hampton, 6-0, 7-5. Stosur became the top-seeded player after Miami champion Agnieszka Radwanska withdrew on Sunday with a back injury.
A pair of high-seeded Russians easily advanced. No. 4 seed Vera Zvonareva downed Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-1, 6-1, and No. 13 seed Nadia Petrova routed Mariana Duque-Marino, 6-1, 6-2.
Two of the top three ranked Americans on the WTA Tour already have been eliminated in the tournament that continues through Sunday.
Vania King lost Tuesday morning to No. 12 seed Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, 6-4, 6-3. King is ranked No. 53. No. 33-ranked Christina McHale was upset Monday, losing to Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at email@example.com or on Twitter @sapakoff.