All three seeded men in action went down on Monday at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, compliments of American James Blake, Maria Sharapova’s boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov, and Czech Radek “The Worm” Stepanek.
Stepanek wormed his way past No. 14 Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-4, while Dimitrov handled No. 13 Nicolas Almagro 7-6(3), 6-4, and Blake in the nightcap ousted the big-serving No. 16 Jerzy Janowicz 6-1, 7-5.
Other American men had mixed results at their home event as comeback player Brian Baker defeated Denis Istomin 7-5, 6-3, Mardy Fish fell to Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 6-2, and Sam Querrey lost to Janko Tipsarevic 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4.
“I think the two matches I got last week, even though the conditions weren’t very close, they at least helped get those cobwebs out of the way,” said Baker, who will next meet Dimitrov. “Still had a few today. Overall, it was a good match out there.”
Fish afterwards spoke about the heart condition he has been dealing with, playing just his fourth tournament of the year.
“I feel all right, I just have an awful long way to go tennis wise,” said Fish, who offered a cryptic summary of his state of mind. “It just kind of shows you how amazing Rafa has been coming back after seven months off. To do what he’s done is just not normal. Matches like today and days like today really make you sort of question how far you’ve got to go, if there’s still that sort of fire and drive that you need, and that’s tested.”
There were no seeded upsets on the women’s side Monday as all three seeded players advanced into the second round. No. 9 Angie Kerber came from a set down to defeat Italian Karin Knapp 6-7(6), 6-0, 6-1; No. 11 Sam Stosur took down Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 7-5; and No. 16 Maria Kirilenko came from a set down to defeat Anna Tatishvili 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(4).
“The first set was a little bit tough for me because I couldn’t find my rhythm and she was playing well in the important moments,” said Kerber, a finalist last year. “But after the first set I was just trying to change my game a little bit and play a bit more aggressive, not moving too much around and far from the line.”
Unseeded Americans had a great day as Sloane Stephens outlasted Croat Petra Martic 6-2, 3-6, 6-3; Lauren Davis edged Czech Klara Zakopalova 7-6(3), 7-6(1); Vania King topped Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 6-4; and Venus Williams turned around a slow start, down 0-3, to defeat Slovak Jana Cepelova 6-4, 6-1.
It was Venus’ first match win since April in Fed Cup.
“I had a slow start. I was missing shots but I was being aggressive, so I realized if I had made a few more shots that it would probably go the other way for me,” Williams said. “But I thought she was really determined out there. She just looked really determined and really energetic. She was definitely going to take it to me, so it was good to turn it around and get the win.”
Another notable winner was Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, prevailing in a battle of up-and-comers over Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig 6-3, 6-4.
Highlights to look for on Tuesday in Cincinnati are (2) Victoria Azarenka vs. (Q) Vania King, (3) David Ferrer vs. (WC) Ryan Harrison, Sloane Stephens vs. (3) Maria Sharapova, (5) Roger Federer vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber, (12) Milos Raonic vs. (WC) Jack Sock, (11) Tommy Haas vs. Kevin Anderson, Grigor Dimitrov vs. (WC) Brian Baker, Shuai Peng looking for an upset vs. (10) Caroline Wozniacki, (14) Jelena Jankovic vs. Sabine Lisicki, and Canadian Vasek “Popsicle” Pospisil vs. (15) Gilles Simon.
CENTER COURT start 11:00 am
[Q] V King (USA) vs  V Azarenka (BLR) – WTA
Not Before 1:00 PM
F Mayer (GER) vs J Isner (USA) – ATP
 D Ferrer (ESP) vs [WC] R Harrison (USA) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
S Stephens (USA) vs  M Sharapova (RUS) – WTA
Not Before 8:30 PM
 R Federer (SUI) vs P Kohlschreiber (GER) – ATP
GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
 K Nishikori (JPN) vs F Lopez (ESP) – ATP
E Gulbis (LAT) vs M Youzhny (RUS) – ATP
 A Ivanovic (SRB) vs A Cornet (FRA) – WTA
Not Before 7:00 PM
 M Raonic (CAN) vs [WC] J Sock (USA) – ATP
H Chan (TPE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) vs S Aoyama (JPN) / C Scheepers (RSA) – WTA
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Blake Bids for Nadal Upset in Shanghai