Serena Williams opened her Cincinnati event Monday surviving a stern test from journeywoman Arantxa Rus. Behind her first serve, Serena hung on to take a near-3 hour affair 7-6(6), 3-6, 7-6(0).
The 38-year-old was pushed to the very limit in the heat, saving a Rus set point in the first then holding off her foe who overcame a 5-2 hole in the third on a fanless Grandstand Court.
“Now I feel like I have passed that test, and now I can pass the test at the Open, playing Ashe Stadium,” Serena said.
“At one point I was pumping my fist and saying, ‘Come on!’ I had a crowd in my head or something! It was actually funny to me. I don’t know. For me, it was like there was a crowd there.”
Serena will now face the hot-handed Maria Sakkari who backed up her Coco Gauff win by edging Yulia Putintseva 6-4, 7-6(9).
“I’m taking it a day at a time. I’m going to see how I feel tomorrow obviously. But I’m ready. I’m excited.
“I’m actually super fit and I’m super ready. I feel like I’m ready for anything. I think the reason I wanted to be super fit was because it is six weeks in a row basically playing tennis every day, so this is a really good opportunity for me to get ready and be super ready for clay, as well.”
Naomi Osaka was also in a battle. The second highest seed remaining had to rally to deny Karolina Muchova 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2.
“I think the difference was probably attitude,” Osaka said of winning and losing today. “It kind of boils down to attitude, because for me I feel like I’m more open-minded when I’m calm, so maybe if I was upset I wouldn’t have been able to apply the things that I knew I was doing wrong.”
Petra Kvitova wasn’t as fortunate in the heat as she fell to 22-year-old countrywoman Marie Bouzkova 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.
“I didn’t think I played badly,” Kvitova said. “I really started well, everything was on my side. I played aggressively.
“In the second set, she played a little bit better. I made a few mistakes, which definitely helped her.
“In the end, unfortunately, I think it was the energy and the heat. I’m not used to it, so that’s sad and that’s the bad thing today.
Former champion Victoria Azarenka continued to impress getting through Caroline Garcia 6-2, 7-6(8).
Johanna Konta, Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens were also winners but the defending champion is already out. Madison Keys crashed out to Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-1.
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