Samantha Stosur returned to the scene of one of her greatest tennis moments on Wednesday, and right away everything felt a little bit better.
Stosur, the 27-year-old Aussie who turned in a stunning display in winning last year's Family Circle Cup final, blitzed Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, 6-1, 6-2, on Stadium Court to get her title defense off to a rousing start.
"I think it definitely maybe lifts your shoulders up a little bit," the second-seeded Stosur said of coming back to Charleston as the defending champ. "It puts a smile on your face when the announcer says you're the defending champion, and then he says your name. "It is a nice feeling to be back at a tournament where you've obviously had some success in the past."
Stosur wasn't the only former Family Circle champ to move on Wednesday in second-round play on Daniel Island. Jelena Jankovic, the 2007 champ, and 2006 winner Nadia Petrova also won in straight sets.
There were a couple of upsets. Fourth-seeded Marion Bartoli, ranked 10th in the world, fell in straight sets in Wednesday's late match to unseeded Sabine Lisicki. Lisicki won the Family Circle Cup in 2009, but is ranked just No. 217 and got into the main draw as a wild card. Also, ninth-seeded Maria Kirilenko,ranked 27th in the world, lost to qualifier Anna Tatishvili in three sets.
Stosur's 6-0, 6-3 blitzing of Vera Zvonareva in last year's Family Circle Cup final seemed to herald a breakthrough, and she did go on to become the first Australian woman in 30 years to reach a Grand Slam final. That was at the French Open, where she knocked off Serena Williams.
But Stosur entered this year's Family Circle Cup this year with a 7-7 match record, her best result making the quarterfinals in Dubai. Getting back on green clay of Daniel Island might serve her well again this year.
"I really feel comfortable playing here," she said. "I really enjoy playing on this court, and I love this city, and the fans are great ... It was almost like picking up from last year, which was a nice feeling."
Jankovic, the 26-year-old Serb ranked No. 7, also has fond memories of Stadium Court, where she beat Dinara Safina in the 2007 final. She opened her tournament with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Tamria Paszek; it was her first match on clay since last year's French Open.
"I was sliding pretty well and I was moving the ball around pretty well," said Jankovic, who has 12 career titles and was ranked No. 1 in 2008. "It was pretty windy out there, so you really have to kind of play the ball and play smart, try to wait for your chances and then go for it."
Petrova, a 28-year-old from Russia, downed Patty Schnyder in three sets in the 2006 Family Circle Cup final. Now ranked No. 22, she eased past Edina Gallovits-Hall by 6-1, 6-1, to reach the third round despite dealing with some vertigo.
"I mean, pretty much I feel it all day," said Petrova, who was ranked as high as No. 3 in 2006. "Light dizziness and just general a bit of kind of like a fatigue. It's an unusual feeling for me, and I'm trying to cope with it."