Serena Williams, playing in just her second tournament since the Australian Open, defeated Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday night in the first round of the JP Morgan Chase Open.
Williams has been sidelined most of the year by problems with her left knee. She lost in the third round of the Australian and was idle until three weeks ago, when she advanced to the semifinals at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open in Cincinnati.
Williams has dropped to 110 in the world rankings and was unseeded in Carson. She demonstrated with the easy win over Kirilenko that her ranking is meaningless if she's healthy.
"I played all right, better than I did the last few times," said Williams, who will meet Ashley Harkleroad in a second-round match Wednesday. "It's slowly but surely going in the direction I want to go.
"I don't like to give myself a grade because I never get a good grade. I did good. But for me there's always room for improvement." Laura Granville, who had lost five of her past six matches, advanced to the second round with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over ninth-seeded Ai Sugiyama earlier Tuesday.
Granville was playing just her second match since losing in the second round at Wimbledon in late June, and she said the time off had helped her recapture some of her enjoyment of the game.
"I was happy with how I played, especially mentally," said Granville, a two-time NCAA champion at Stanford. "I was really there (mentally) the whole match, I was focused the whole time, and that's something I haven't been doing very well lately."
Granville's win over Sugiyama was just one of a series of upsets at the final California stop of the year for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.
Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain, best known for her doubles play, toppled second-seeded Nadia Petrova 6-3, 6-2 in a second round match.
Anna Chakvetadze of Russia ousted No. 13 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain, 6-4, 6-3, and American Meghann Shaughnessy beat No. 17 seed Nathalie Dechy of France 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, in a 3-hour match.
No. 3 Elena Dementieva of Russia defeated Julia Schruff of Germany 6-2, 7-5 in their second round match.
Petrova won four tournaments early this year, then suffered a groin injury during a first round loss at the French Open in late May. She returned to the tour by losing her opening match last week at Carlsbad.
She said that Pascual's victory on Tuesday might merit an asterisk because "you can't call it a tennis match."
"The problems are in me, especially in my head," she said. "I feel like I was not on the court, I was somewhere next to it. I'm trying to push myself and my whole body is against it."
Petrova's loss leaves four-time event champion Lindsay Davenport, at No. 4, as the highest seed in the bottom half of the bracket. Davenport, who hasn't played since mid-March, will face Samantha Stosur of Australia on Wednesday.