Zheng Jie is convinced she's on her way to reach the group of highest-ranked players after defeating Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in her opening match at the Aegon Classic on Tuesday.
Zheng helped fuel Chinese tennis after becoming the country's first player to reach a Grand Slam semifinal in 2008 at Wimbledon, when she made history two years later by winning the first ever doubles title.
Although the 28-year-old player has not fully recovered from wrist surgery, she won a see-saw struggle with a dangerously hard-hitting Russian.
''It's really good to be back on grass and I aim to be back in the top 20 again,'' said Zheng, who was ranked No. 32.
She will play against 76th-ranked Anne Keothavong of Britain in the second round. Keothavong advanced after beating the 12-seeded Tamira Paszek of Austria 6-2, 7-5.
The 11th-seeded Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic was also ousted after losing her opening match 6-2, 6-1 to Tara Moore of Britain. Benesova blamed the grass court for her loss, saying the grass was ''not really playable.''
She said the court was ''full of holes'' and complained that play had started too early on Tuesday after the first day of the Birmingham tournament was washed out by rain. Benesova also criticized her coach, Martin Fassati, saying he pushed her to play on the grass even though she had told him that grass ''was not my thing.''
After vowing never to come back, the emotional Czech also said, ''It's not like it's the grass. It's me.''
Melanie Oudin of the United States ousted another seeded player after the first round by defeating 10th-seeded Sorana Cirstea of Romania 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Later two other seeds, Timea Babos of Hungary and Elena Baltacha of Britain, were in trouble, and left to consider the possibility of defeat overnight, as darkness halted play.
Babos, the No. 14, let slip a final set lead of 3-0 to stand level at 6-4, 4-6, 3-3 against Alison Riske, the American qualifier who reached the semifinals here two years ago.
Meanwhile Baltacha, the No. 15, lost the first set 4-6 but was 3-2 up in the second against Chang Kai-Chen of Taiwan when the evening closed in.