Serena Williams debuted like a bomb shell on Monday at the Western & Southern Open, while two seeds were upset and a third barely escaped in Cincinnati.
Williams never let up in destroying Australian Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 6-2 to set up a meeting with No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova.
“It’s never easy, no matter what the scoreline says,” said Williams afterwards. “I definitely felt relaxed after the first break, but it’s just the very beginning of the match — you’ve got to keep going.”
The American dropped out of last week’s Rogers Cup citing new-mother worries and postpartum depression, and looks to have taken her fitness up a level in that time.
Two players were upset on Monday when No. 10 Julia Goerges retired against Kristina Mladenovic at 6-4, 3-2, and qualifier Alize Cornet ousted No. 11 Jelena Ostapenko 1-6, 7-5, 6-0.
“She was killing me in that first set,” Cornet said of Ostapenko. “I didn’t see any balls. She was doing winners over winners, and I was just trying to be here and just put the ball in the court. I think I put a little bit more intensity in my shots, and finally I turned the match around. I don’t know how. The third set was also a battle, but I think she was a little bit down to have lost the second set. So I’m just glad to be through to the second round.”
No. 13 Madison Keys lost the first set to wildcard entrant Bethanie Mattek-Sands, but Keys survived the battle of U.S. Fed Cup teammates 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-4. Mattek-Sands was one point from a set and 4-1 lead but could not close it out.
“It’s always tough playing a friend and on top of that, knowing her story and how hard she’s fought to come back,” Keys said. “It’s always difficult when you have someone that you care about on the other side of the net.”
Other notable unseeded results were wildcard Victoria Azarenka outlasting Carla Suarez Navarro 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-4 to set up a meeting with No. 6 Caroline Garcia, and wildcard Svetlana Kuznetsova saving a match point to beat qualifier Stefanie Voegele 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5). Kuznetsova will next face No. 5 Elena Svitolina.
Matches to look for on Tuesday in Cincinnati are (9) Karolina Pliskova vs. Aggie Radwanska, (8) Kvitova vs. Serena Williams, Kiki Bertens vs. CoCo Vandeweghe, (5) Svitolina vs. Kuznetsova, (6) Garcia vs. Azarenka, and (15) Elise Mertens vs. Magdalena Rybarikova.
“Serena is a big champion,” Kvitova said. “She’s coming back. I think she’s in great form again…it will be a tough match. On the other hand, it will be a great match for both of us to face each other after many years.”
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