STANFORD, Calif. – Nicole Gibbs said she has never played better in her life. Now the Stanford junior gets to play the match of her life.
Gibbs, a wild card, beat Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand, 6-4, 6-4, in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic on Tuesday to earn a matchup against the top seed, Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, on Wednesday.
"I am so in awe of her. She is one of my idols," Gibbs said. "It will be such an honor to share the court with her. I grew up watching the Williams sisters. For a while they were American tennis."
Gibbs, the NCAA singles and doubles champion in the spring, is coming off a victory in a $50,000 ITF event in Denver.
"I have been competing better than I ever have in my life," Gibbs said. "This added a level of excitement for me. Knowing I could play Serena gave me the incentive to stay in points."
Gibbs was two years old when Williams turned pro in 1995 and served as her ball girl during an exhibition match in Cleveland 10 years later.
Mallory Burdette, Gibbs' doubles partner at Stanford, also advanced with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Anne Keothavong, Great Britain's top-ranked player.
Burdette, also a wild card, ripped five straight points in the final game to win the match. She meets second-seeded Marion Bartoli in a second-round match Thursday.
"It's an exciting day for Stanford," Burdette said. "This is a great experience to have. It can only help us deal with the big moments."
In other matches, eighth-seeded Marina Erakovic of New Zealand topped 2011 NCAA champion Jana Juricova of Slovakia 6-2, 6-2; Urszula Radwanska of Poland downed Eleni Daniilidou of Greece 3-6, 6-3, 6-4; qualifier Erika Sema of Japan defeated American Alexa Glatch 6-2, 6-3; Sorana Cirstea of South Africa beat American Vania King 7-5, 6-4; and Saisai Zheng of China advanced when Japan's Ayumi Morita retired with a lower back injury.