STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - Off her game and rattled by a teen 11 years younger, the top-seeded Williams rallied from one set down to beat hard-hitting Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday night in the second round of the Bank of the West Classic.
Williams, playing her first match since losing the Wimbledon final to big sister Venus, committed eight unforced errors in the initial 12 points. She sprayed her typically reliable groundstrokes long and wide. She hit ball after ball into the bottom of the net and regularly missed first serves. Her father, Richard, briefly left his seat in a corner box after watching his daughter struggle so mightily.
Larcher de Brito slipped and hit a backhand into the net on match point and Williams came around the net to shake hands moments later.
It was the gutsy Larcher de Brito - who grunted loudly on every shot and pumped her fist on both her own winners and Williams' unforced errors alike - was the aggressor until her experienced opponent with eight Grand Slam titles woke up in the second set.
Williams led 4-2 in the opening set before losing it and dropping six straight games to fall behind 2-0 in the second. She then changed rackets and rolled the rest of the way. In the fifth game of the middle set, Williams hollered, "Come on!" to get herself fired up after smacking a backhand winner down the line.
The 26-year-old Williams is playing in her first Bank of the West event after being scheduled to appear three other times only to withdraw. She did play at Stanford in the 1999 Fed Cup final against Russia.
Williams is looking for her fourth tournament title of 2008 and 32nd of her career. She will play in the quarterfinals Friday against the winner of Thursday's second-round match between Russia's Alisa Kleybanova and fifth-seeded Patty Schnyder of Switzerland.