|Ex-Stanford star Nicole Gibbs, playing in the Stockton (Calif.)|
Challenger last July, reached the second round of the Australian
Open for the third consecutive year. Photo by Paul Bauman
This time, the ex-Stanford star needed one of the biggest victories of her career.
Gibbs, a resident of Marina del Rey in the Los Angeles area, ousted No. 25 seed Timea Babos of Hungary 7-6 (3), 6-4 in a matchup of 23-year-olds in Melbourne. Babos, a two-time Wimbledon runner-up in women's doubles, had one ace and six double faults.
Babos, at No. 28 in the world, is the third-highest-ranked player Gibbs has beaten. Gibbs toppled No. 24 Madison Keys of Boca Raton, Fla., in the second round at Indian Wells last year and No. 25 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the second round of the 2014 U.S. Open. Gibbs also upset No. 29 Kristina Mladenovic of France in the second round at Miami last year.
Gibbs has a good chance to equal her best result in a Grand Slam tournament, a third-round appearance in the 2014 U.S. Open. She will meet Irina Falconi of West Palm Beach, Fla.
Falconi, 26, defeated Han Xinyun of China 6-1, 7-5 to reach the second round of the Australian Open for the fourth straight year. Gibbs, ranked No. 92, is 3-0 against Falconi, ranked No. 104.
The winner of the Gibbs-Falconi match will play either No. 2 seed and six-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams or Lucie Safarova, the 2015 French Open runner-up, in the third round.
On the men's side, Dmitry Tursunov, a 34-year-old Russian based in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, lost to Radek Stepanek, a 38-year-old qualifier from the Czech Republic, 6-2, 7-6 (1), 6-3 in the first round.
The injury-plagued Tursunov was playing in his first tournament since last July. He used a protected ranking to gain entry into the Australian Open.
Stepanek and Tursunov climbed to career highs of No. 8 and No. 20, respectively, in 2006. Stepanek won the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose in 2009 and reached the 2008 final, losing to Andy Roddick.