x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Williams, Djokovic and Murray advance in Cincinnati tennis

Straight-sets wins for the men's top two players although women's world No 1 struggles in her first-round match.

Serena Williams does not have a great record at Cincinnati and it showed in her first-round victory.
Serena Williams does not have a great record at Cincinnati and it showed in her first-round victory.

MASON, United States // Serena Williams came to net for an easy put-away shot. She missed the line – and everything else, too.

Williams overcame what she described as one of her worst sets before beating qualifier Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 on Wednesday in her opening match at the Western & Southern Open.

"So it was just some crazy tennis out there," Williams said.

At least she won.

Older sister Venus Williams lost her second match of the tournament, falling to Russia's Elena Vesnina 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. The 33-year-old Williams is slowly working back into shape after missing most of the summer because of a lower back injury.

The top seeds advanced on a windy and cooler-than-usual afternoon. Novak Djokovic, the world No 1, had a ragged first set while beating Juan Monaco 7-5, 6-2, leaving him 8-0 career against the Argentine.

Djokovic has never won in Cincinnati, the only one of the nine Masters series events that has eluded him. No player has won all nine, so he has got a chance for something notable – if he can get accustomed to the conditions quickly enough.

"As the matches go on, you kind of have to find your way and your rhythm," Djokovic said.

Serena Williams has a breakthrough on the line this week as well. She won at Toronto on Sunday, equaling her career best with her eighth singles title this season. She has never done all that well in Cincinnati.

If she does not do much better than in her opening match, she will not be around very long this time, either.

"It was just really different conditions than Toronto," she said. "And I always forget that it's so different here. So it took me a while to get used to it.

"I have to get used to them because this is a tournament I don't have on my roster. And if I play like today, I'll continue not to have it."

Williams had 37 unforced errors. Twenty-two of them came off her forehand, including one that she will not forget in that ugly first set on a centre court that seems to entice her worst tennis.

"I even had the easiest approach shot and it went not slightly wide, it was like 50 feet out," she said. "That was actually embarrassing. So I thought I'd never hit a shot like that professionally. I have maybe in practice with my eyes closed, but never conscious have I hit a shot like that."

Andy Murray, the Wimbledon champion, had an easy time in his opening match at the tournament, which he has won twice. The second-seeded Murray needed only 69 minutes to beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-2, 6-3.

Murray, who is also the defending US Open champion, was coming off a third-round loss last week in Montreal, his first action since becoming the first British male to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. He is using the tournament in Cincinnati to get ready to defend his Open title.

"He made more mistakes than I expected," Murray said. "I just want to play as many matches as I can. It's important to get a few matches in before New York. I didn't make too many errors and hit a high percentage of first serves."

Eleventh-seeded German Tommy Haas also advanced, beating No 46 Spaniard Marcel Granollers, 6-4, 6-1. He earned a match-up with fifth-seeded and five-time tournament champion Roger Federer.

In the women's draw, 11th-seeded Australian Samantha Stosur reached the third round with a 6-3, 7-6 win over 26th-ranked American Jamie Hampton.

Sixth-seeded Italian Sara Errani struggled early against 102nd-ranked Polona Hercog of Slovakia before winning 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.


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