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August 20, 2019
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Djokovic advances, Serena pulls out

MASON: Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns a shot to Sam Querrey of the United States during Day 4 of the Western and Southern Open at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio. – AFP

CINCINNATI: World
number one Novak Djokovic got his US Open build up off to a smooth start with a
straight-sets win in Cincinnati on Tuesday as back trouble forced Serena
Williams to withdraw. Defending champion Djokovic double faulted three times as
he dropped serve in the opening game against Sam Querrey but quickly put things
right and pulled away for a 7-5, 6-1 victory over the American.

“I ended the
match well even if the start was nervy,” said Djokovic, who would break
Querrey twice to take the first set then roll to victory in his first match
since beating Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final last month. “Sam was
feeling comfortable on the court at the start and dictating. It was tough
facing his big serve,” Djokovic said. “I’m just pleased with this
challenge in quick conditions, I’m glad I overcame it. “I’m hoping for a
better performance in the next round.”

Williams,
meanwhile, was left just trying to get healthy before the August 26 start of
the US Open, pulling out of her scheduled first-round match against qualifier
Zarina Diyas just days after she was forced to retire from the WTA Toronto
final with back spasms. “I came to Mason (Ohio) on Sunday and have tried
everything to be ready to play tonight, and was still hopeful after my practice
this morning,” Williams said in a statement released by tournament
officials. “But unfortunately my back is still not right.”

It’s another
injury blow for 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams, who was hampered by knee
trouble earlier this season and remains in search of her first title since the
2017 Australian Open. In early action, Stan Wawrinka won a first-round battle
as he eliminated 2017 Cincinnati champion Grigor Dimitrov 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
Under leaden skies after an overnight thunderstorm, Dimitrov broke in the 12th
game of the first set to take the lead.

The 33-year-old
Swiss fought back with the only break in the second set. Wawrinka then raced
into a 5-1 lead in the final set but wasted two match points in the eighth game
and was broken twice while serving for victory. Wawrinka had to hold off his
Bulgarian opponent in the final-set tiebreaker before squeezing through in more
than two and a half hours with his 10th ace. Wawrinka, who played a 2012 semi-final
here, will face Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev, a 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-2 winner
over 15th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili from Georgia. In other opening-round
matches, Montreal semi-finalist Gael Monfils exited to Frances Tiafoe 7-6
(9/7), 6-3 and Belgian David Goffin beat Taylor Fritz of the United States 6-4,
4-6, 6-4.

VENUS TOPPLES
BERTENS

In women’s play,
defending champion Kiki Bertens fell in the second round to Venus Williams,
with the 39-year-old American putting her decades of experience to good use in
a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4) victory. “Before the match I felt quite good.
Stepping on court, I’d say first few games was pretty bad,” Bertens
said.  “I didn’t start the match in
a loose way. I knew that I had to defend the title.” Williams, who reached
the semi-finals in 2012, has not been past the second round in Cincy since
then.

Former US Open
finalist Madison Keys knocked out 2017 Cincinnati champion Garbine Muguruza of
Spain 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-4. Former number one Angelique Kerber continued a
dismal hardcourt summer, losing in the first round for a second straight week
as she fell 7-6 (9/7), 6-2 to Estonian Anett Kontaveit. – AFP

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