World No. 1 Serena Williams turned back a stern test from former US Open winner Sam Stosur on Wednesday in second-round play at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, defeating the unseeded Aussie 7-6(7), 7-6(7).
But this is still not the world-beating Serena.
Grimacing, screaming at missed opportunities and making her almost-crying face when failing to close out sets, the younger Williams sister is struggling to find her form with just a little more than a week left until her final chance to win a Grand Slam event in 2014 at the US Open.
“She was up in both of the breakers,” Williams said. “She was extremely aggressive today. She made very few unforced errors. She just did everything really well. This is why she was able to win a Grand Slam.”
Stosur improved on a routine loss to Williams last week in Canada.
“I actually followed through with all of the things I wanted to do last week,” Stosur said. “It was a huge improvement, and I’m really pleased with the way I played. I’m disappointed I had a couple of set points and didn’t at least win that set to take it to a third.”
Williams will next face No. 13 seed Flavia Pennetta, who put the kabosh on a potential Serena meeting with American youngster Taylor Townsend, defeating the teen qualifier 6-4, 6-3.
Upset-makers on Wednesday were the Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina downing No. 3 Petra Kvitova 6-2, 7-6(2); Russian former world No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova extending No. 7 seed Eugenie Bouchard’s hardcourt summer of pain 6-4, 3-6, 6-2; and German Sabine Lisicki outlasting No. 14 Sara Errani 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(2).
“It was a little bit up and down but I think we both played great,” said Kuznetsova, the recipient of 46 unforced errors from Bouchard, who she improved to 2-0 career against. “Genie really raised her level in the second and third sets, but I was defending really well, and it was just a really exciting match for me to play out there. It was a great atmosphere.”
Other Top 10-seeded players into the third round were No. 4 Aggie Radwanska over Japan’s Kurumi Nara 6-2, 6-2; No. 6 Angie Kerber rolling Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 6-1; No. 8 Jelena Jankovic edging German qualifier Annika Beck 6-1, 7-6(5); and No. 9 Ana Ivanovic easing past American wildcard Chrisina McHale 6-4, 6-0.
Also advancing into the third round were No. 15 Carla Suarez Navarro, No. 16 Lucie Safarova, Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and American Sloane Stephens.
There were three Top 10 upsets Wednesday in men’s play in Cincinnati as Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz overpowered No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3; American wildcard Steve Johnson downed No. 9 Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-4; and Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun “Randy” Lu outlasted No. 4 Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
No. 2 seed Roger Federer avoided an upset, stretched to three sets by rising Canadian Vasek Pospisil, but the Swiss’ cool head prevailed in the third set as Pospisil self-destructed 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-2.
“We play so close to the line and margins are so small that sometimes we just miss a few shots here and there just because of not having played enough in these conditions, and that can cost you the match,” said Federer, who said he wasn’t in his best form, but nonetheless became the first player to record a 300th match win at Masters level tournaments. “I’m happy I found a way at least today, and I get another chance tomorrow.”
Federer will next meet Gael “Force” Monfils, who in the late night match handled No. 13 seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-1.
Other Top 10-seeded winners Wednesday were No. 5 Milos Raonic easing past American Robby Ginepri 6-2, 6-2; No 6 David Ferrer grinding past Philipp Kohlschreiber in three tiebreaks 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(5); and No. 8 Andy Murray having his way with Joao Sousa 6-3, 6-3.
Murray will next face No. 11-seeded American John Isner, who is trying to rebound from an early loss in Canada last week.
“Haven’t played him in a few years, really,” Isner said. “I normally play very well against players ranked ahead of myself, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Also into the third round were No. 14 Marin Cilic who edged Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco 7-6(6), 7-6(5); No. 15 Fabio Fognini who dismissed former No. 11 Lleyton Hewitt in straights; and No. 16 Tommy Robredo who did likewise to Sam Querrey.
The slew of highlight matches on Thursday in Cincinnati include:
(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (16) Tommy Robredo
(2) Roger Federer vs. Gael Monfils
(3) Stan Wawrinka vs. (14) Marin Cilic
(5) Milos Raonic vs. (WC) Steve Johnson
(8) Andy Murray vs. (11) John Isner
(1) Serena Williams vs. (13) Flavia Pennetta
(2) Simona Halep vs. (16) Lucie Safarova
(4) Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Sabine Lisicki
(5) Maria Sharapova vs. fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
(6) Angelique Kerber vs. (12) Caroline Wozniacki
(8) Jelena Jankovic vs. Sloane Stephens
(9) Ana Ivanovic vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova
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