Sharapova Shines on California Return

APSharapova following through on a serve during her second-round win over Lilia Osterloh at California's Acura Classic on Tuesday.
SAN DIEGO -- Maria Sharapova, in her first match since winning Wimbledon earlier this month, powered past American qualifier Lilia Osterloh 6-3, 6-3 in the second round of the $1.3 million Acura Classic on Tuesday.

"I really feel this is where I belong," the 17-year-old Russian told reporters. "The competitive spirit comes back again.

"I knew it wouldn't be easy and I just tried to be consistent. I think I did well for not playing for a while and coming off such a big win."

Top seed Serena Williams struggled to progress and needed more than two hours to down Jelena Jankovic of Serbia and Montenegro 6-7, 6-3, 6-2.

Serena's sister, Venus, pulled out of the tournament earlier in the day with a sprained wrist.

Playing in front of a sellout crowd of 6,500, sixth seed Sharapova served well and returned aggressively but often failed to find her range with her big groundstrokes.

"It was exciting," said the Wimbledon champion.

"There were a few more guests asking me for tickets.

"As long as people enjoy it and bring the kids in, it's great for me to show my tennis."

Serena, beaten in Sunday's final at nearby Carson by Lindsay Davenport, was erratic against Jankovic, unable to control her groundstrokes and doing little with her return of serve.

The two players received

simultaneous medical timeouts with Williams leading 3-2 in the third set, Jankovic for a stiff back and Serena for blisters on her left foot.

After a 10-minute break, Jankovic was unable to get her rhythm back while Williams played more consistently and ended the match with two booming aces.

"When I first got on court I was a bit scared because she was hitting so hard," Jankovic said. "I was afraid I was going to get hit in the face.

"The balls were going, like, 300-miles-per-hour. But then she wasn't hitting as hard and I knew I could play with her."

Former world No. 1 Williams, who said after Sunday's defeat by Davenport that she was "trying to commit suicide out there," said she was "nearly" suicidal against Jankovic.

"Everyone tends to play beyond themselves against me," Williams said. "I made a lot of mistakes."

French Open champion and third seed Anastasia Myskina advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Austria's Barbara Schett.

In Tuesday's only upset, Russian Yelena Likhovtseva put out compatriot and 10th seed Nadia Petrova 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in a first-round tussle.