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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Serena Williams back to best in Cincinnati as Andy Murray makes early exit

Former world No 1 bounces back from worst ever career defeat to move into second round

Serena Williams was too strong for Daria Gavrilova in their Cincinnati Open match. Getty Images
Serena Williams was too strong for Daria Gavrilova in their Cincinnati Open match. Getty Images

Serena Williams re-established her customary superiority on Monday, hammering Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 6-2 to reach the second round of the Cincinnati Masters.

The 23-time grand slam champion showed full recovery in her first match since suffering the worst defeat of her career two weeks ago in San Jose when she was crushed 6-1, 6-0 in 51 minutes by British No 1 Johanna Konta.

But the 36-year-old was all business Monday as she cleaned up on Australian Gavrilova, with Williams winning an 11th straight match in Cincinnati.

"I'm feeling pretty good tonight. It's never easy, no matter what the scoreline says," Williams said. "I definitely felt relaxed after the first break, but you've got to keep going and try to go in for the whole thing."

Though she has not played the tournament in three years, Williams lifted back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015 after losing the 2013 final to Victoria Azarenka.

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Comment: Andy Murray takes a big step forward in his long road of recovery

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Andy Murray's injury comeback was sidetracked as the three-time grand slam champion lost 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 to Lucas Pouille.

But fellow injury patient Stan Wawrinka opened with a defeat of 12th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic beat Steve Johnson of the US 6-4, 7-6.

Murray, returning from January hip surgery, was unable to get past the French 16th seed, hampering his preparations for the US Open starting on August 27

"Physically, I felt okay. It's quick conditions here," Murray said. "He was a little bit sharper than me out there.

"I maybe wasn't reacting as quickly to some shots I would have liked."

Andy Murray greets Lucas Pouille at the net after their first round match at the Cincinnati Open. Getty Images
Andy Murray greets Lucas Pouille at the net after their first round match at the Cincinnati Open. Getty Images

Murray last played 11 days ago in a Washington third-round match which took him three hours to win and ended at 3am.

The 31-year-old two-time Wimbledon winner is working his way back slowly and felt he could not subject his body to a quarter-final just over 12 hours later, prompting him to withdraw from that event.

"After Washington, I took four, five days off the tennis court. I did a lot of training, a lot of rehab. As the year goes on, I'll be able to get a little bit more consistency like on the practice court and on the tennis court."

Pouille had lost his previous three matches to Murray, the last at Dubai in 2017.

Spanish 13th seed Pablo Carreno Busta started his week with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 defeat of France's Richard Gasquet, while Japan's Kei Nishikori put out Russian Andrey Rublev, 7-5, 6-3.

Peter Gojowczyk of Germany defeated Joao Sousa 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 and will next line up against seven-time winner Roger Federer, at second the highest seed in the field after the withdrawal of Rafael Nadal.

Denis Shapovalov ground out a win against Frances Tiafoe. Getty Images
Denis Shapovalov ground out a win against Frances Tiafoe. Getty Images

Canadian Denis Shapovalov beat US tournament debutant Frances Tiafoe 7-6, 3-6, 7-5.

Sam Querrey beat ninth-seeded American compatriot John Isner 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6.

In the women's first round, Azarenka made her first appearance here since 2015 count as she defeated Spanish veteran Carla Suarez Navarro 6-7, 6-2, 6-4.

Double grand slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova continued her 2017 injury comeback, beating Swiss Stefanie Voegele 6-4, 2-6, 7-6.

US Open finalist Madison Keys, seeded 13th, defeated wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, while France's Kristina Mladenovic advanced when Julia Goerges retired hurt trailing 6-4, 3-2.