x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Serena Williams pulls out of Cincinnati event with toe injury

Victoria Azarenka also withdraws while top seed Caroline Wozniacki is beaten by Christine McHale.

Serena Williams has pulled out of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati in hope that she will be ready for the US Open.
Serena Williams has pulled out of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati in hope that she will be ready for the US Open.

CiINCINNATI, OHIO // A big puff of pizzazz seeped out of the Cincinnati Open as its top seed Caroline Wozniacki slipped out and star attraction Serena Williams quit the tournament, along with third seed Victoria Azarenka.

Fans and organisers were left deflated with 13-times grand slam winner Williams and third seed Azarenka both having been scheduled to play on Centre Court as part of a busy schedule alongside the ATP men's event.

Williams pulled out citing a right toe injury — but also noting her need to get some rest before the US Open.

"I don't think this is a good time for me to take a big chance. I just don't think that would be smart," said the American Williams.

Azarenka then withdrew due to a right hand injury which she did not want to risk just two weeks from the final grand slam event of the year in New York.

"It's impossible to play for me. I was waiting until the last moment to be 100 per cent sure that I cannot compete," said the Belarusian.

"It's important also prior to the US Open. It just doesn't make any sense to make it worse," she said.

Those fans of the women's game who did manage to see one of the favourites witnessed an upset with Wozniacki looking well below her best against the 19-year-old American Christine McHale.

With golf sensation and friend Rory McIlroy in attendance, the Danish top seed never looked close to her best as she fell 6-4, 7-5 to the 76th ranked McHale.

The defeat was the first time Wozniacki lost to an opponent outside the top 75 since 2009 and extends a worrying spell of form for the Dane.

Wozniacki, who suffered early round exits in her last two tournaments, handed victory to McHale with an awfully-timed stroke which looped way over the baseline.

The 21-year-old heads to the US Open later this month in search of her first grand slam title.

Serbian Ana Ivanovic's disappointing season continued with a 6-3, 7-6 loss to Russia's Nadia Petrova, but another Serbian former No 1, Jelena Jankovic enjoyed a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over China's Zheng Jie.

Germany's Andrea Petkovic advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 win against Sweden's Sofia Arvidsson.

Vera Zvonareva eased past fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-0.

Svetlana Kuznetsova and Shuai Peng were the other seeded players to make it through. Daniela Hantuchova and Shahar Peer also progressed with straight sets victories over Flavia Pennetta and Pauline Parmentier, respectively.

The top players in the men's draw had an easier time of things, No 1 seed Novak Djokovic easing past second-round opponent Ryan Harrison 6-2, 6-4 and No 2 Rafael Nadal also easing to a 6-4, 7-5 win over Julien Benneteau to help erase memories of his shock loss to Ivan Dodig in Montreal last week.

Fourth seed Andy Murray recorded his first win since Wimbledon with a 6-1, 6-4 defeat of an off-colour David Nalbandian, while fifth seed David Ferrer was taken to three sets before seeing off Grigor Dimitrov 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.

Dodig was forced to retire when he trailed 4-6, 6-3, 4-0 to sixth seed Gael Monfils, while other seeded winners included Mardy Fish, Richard Gasquet and Nicolas Almagro.

Qualifier Radek Stepanek continued his fine recent form by beating Andrey Golubev in straight sets and there were also wins for Philipp Kohlschreiber, Alex Bogomolov Jr and Fernando Verdasco.