CINCINNATI: Serena Williams’ farewell tour suffered another bump in the road on Tuesday with a 6-4, 6-0 opening round loss to Emma Raducanu at the Cincinnati Open, one of the last tune-up events before the final Grand Slam of the American great’s career.
Serena has just one professional tournament remaining before the US Open, where she will have one last chance to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles.
The 40-year-old left the court swiftly after the defeat without speaking to television reporters and did not hold a press conference.
Raducanu broke Serena at the start of both sets to claim victory in what was her first and likely last meeting with the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, setting up a clash against two-time former major winner Victoria Azarenka.
Serena’s elder sister Venus took a 7-5, 6-1 loss earlier in the day, losing to 2016 champion Karolina Pliskova.
Naomi Osaka’s US Open preparations suffered another setback as the former world number one was swept aside 6-4, 7-5 by China’s Zhang Shuai.
It was Osaka’s third tournament back from an Achilles’ tendon injury and it has been a stuttering return to action for the twice US Open champion, who also exited in the opening round in Toronto last week, retiring with lower back pain.
Zhang next meets Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, who beat Leylah Fernandez, the losing finalist at last year’s US Open, on Monday.
American teenager Coco Gauff, runner-up at this year’s French Open, rolled her left ankle late in the first set of her match against qualifier Marie Bouzkova and eventually retired while trailing 7-5, 1-0.
Amanda Anisimova withdrew from her match against fellow American Shelby Rogers due to a left ankle injury while second seed Anett Kontaveit progressed to the round of 16 after a rain-interrupted 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over qualifier Tereza Martincova.
Joining her was France’s Caroline Garcia, who upset fourth seed Maria Sakkari 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (6-8), 6-1 while Swiss Olympic champion Belinda Bencic lost 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4 to Romanian Sorana Cirstea.
Two-time major winner Simona Halep, former French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko and former US Open runner-up Madison Keys also moved into the second round.
MEDVEDEV BACK ON TRACK
In the men’s draw of the joint event, Daniil Medvedev looked like he had a point to prove as the Russian got preparations for his US Open title defence back on track with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Botic van de Zandschulp in the second round.
Medvedev had been building momentum ahead of the year’s last Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows by winning a tune-up event in Los Cabos without dropping a set but was beaten by Nick Kyrgios in the second round of the Canadian Masters in Montreal last week.
Kyrgios began the last major US Open tune-up with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina to reach the second round. He now faces good friend Taylor Fritz after the American crushed Sebastian Baez 6-1, 6-1.
Elsewhere, Spanish third seed Carlos Alcaraz advanced in his tournament debut, defeating American Mackenzie McDonald 6-3, 6-2 to set up a third-round match-up against former US Open champion Marin Cilic, who beat Emil Ruusuvuori.
Italian 10th seed Jannik Sinner celebrated his 21st birthday by beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-7 (9-11), 6-4, 7-6 (8-6).
Argentine Diego Schwartzman also celebrated a birthday, his 30th, with a 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 6-2 win over Aslan Karatsev in a late match to advance to the third round.
In other first-round matches at the Masters 1000 tournament, Tommy Paul beat compatriot Jenson Brooksby 6-3, 6-2, Australia’s Alex de Minaur dispatched Swiss Henri Laaksonen 6-2, 6-2, Croatian Borna Coric defeated Lorenzo Musetti 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 and Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas beat Italy’s Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-3.
Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2022