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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Serena Williams beaten by Petra Kvitova in Cincinnati Open thriller

To-time Wimbledon champion outlasts former world No 1 to set up tie with France's Mladenovic

Petra Kvitova, left, and Serena Williams greet each other at the net after their Cincinnati Open match. Getty Images
Petra Kvitova, left, and Serena Williams greet each other at the net after their Cincinnati Open match. Getty Images

Serena Williams was beaten 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 by Petra Kvitova in a thrilling second-round match at the Cincinnati Open on Tuesday, ending the American's bid for a third title at the event.

Williams looked rusty in the first set, struggling to handle the Czech's booming left-handed serve and never created a break-point opportunity.

But the 23-time grand slam champion dug deep in the second, thumping serves and blasting returns to the delight of the supportive crowd under the lights.

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Williams appeared to be in command when she broke Kvitova to start the deciding third set but the two-time Wimbledon champion elevated her service game and was defensively resolute to set up a third-round clash with Kristina Mladenovic.

For former world No 1 Williams, the loss is another setback as she attempts to get back to the top ranking after a difficult childbirth last year.

France's Mladenovic had earlier defeated qualifier Viktoria Kuzmova 6-3, 6-0, while her sixth seeded compatriot Caroline Garcia defeated Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 7-5 to advance to the third round.

Caroline Garcia defeated Victoria Azarenka to progress in Cincinnati. Getty Images
Caroline Garcia defeated Victoria Azarenka to progress in Cincinnati. Getty Images

Former world No 1 Azarenka, who on Tuesday was given a wildcard for the US Open, never found her stride and committed her fifth double fault on match point to hand Garcia the win.

Big-serving Czech Karolina Pliskova fired an ace on match point to dispatch Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-3 in their first-round match.

Pliskova had never won a set against Radwanska in seven prior meetings but cruised to the win over the 29-year-old Pole, who is working her way back from injuries.

Karolina Pliskova claimed her first win over Agnieszka Radwanska. EPA
Karolina Pliskova claimed her first win over Agnieszka Radwanska. EPA

Greece's Maria Sakkari edged 20-year-old Naomi Osaka in a closely contested second-set tiebreak to dispatch the Japanese 6-3, 7-6 in their first-round match.

Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens cracked eight aces and won 90 per cent of her first serves as she strolled to a 6-2 6-0 win over American Coco Vandeweghe.

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina outlasted Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 in their second-round clash.