Serena Williams overcame what she described as one of her worst sets before beating qualifier Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 on Wednesday in her opening match at the Western & Southern Open.
“So it was just some crazy tennis out there,” Williams said.
Older sister Venus Williams lost her second match of the tournament, falling to Russia’s Elena Vesnina 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. The 33-year-old Williams is slowly working back into shape after missing most of the summer because of a lower back injury. Cincinnati was only her second event since the French Open.
The top seeds advanced on a windy and cooler-than-usual afternoon. Men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic had a ragged first set while beating Juan Monaco 7-5, 6-2, leaving him unbeaten in eight matches against the Argentine.
Djokovic has never won in Cincinnati, the only one of the nine Masters series events that has eluded him. No player has won all nine, so he has a chance of achieving something notable — if he can get accustomed to the conditions quickly enough.
“As the matches go on, you kind of have to find your way and your rhythm,” Djokovic said.
Serena Williams has a breakthrough on the line this week as well. She won at Toronto on Sunday, equaling her career best with her eighth singles title this season.
“It was just really different conditions than Toronto, and I always forget that it’s so different here,” she said. “So it took me a while to get used to it.
“I have to get used to them because this is a tournament I don’t have on my roster, and if I play like today, I’ll continue not to have it,” she said.
Williams had 37 unforced errors, 22 of them off her forehand, including one that she will not forget in an ugly first set on a center court that seems to bring out her worst tennis.
“I even had the easiest approach shot and it went not slightly wide, it was like 50 feet [15m] out,” she said. “That was actually embarrassing. So I thought I’d never hit a shot like that professionally. I have maybe in practice with my eyes closed, but never conscious have I hit a shot like that.”
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray had an easy time in his opening match at the tournament, which he has won twice. The second-seeded needed only 69 minutes to beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-2, 6-3.
Murray, who is also the defending US Open champion, was coming off a third-round loss last week in Montreal, his first action since becoming the first British male to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. .
“He made more mistakes than I expected,” Murray said. “I just want to play as many matches as I can. It’s important to get a few matches in before New York. I didn’t make too many errors and hit a high percentage of first serves.”
In a night match, fourth-seeded Rafael Nadal beat German qualifier Benjamin Becker 6-2, 6-2, extending his streak to 11 straight wins on hard courts.
“I should be very happy with the way that I played since the beginning,” Nadal said. “Just for a few games, the serve was down a little bit. For the rest, I think I played a great match.”
Eleventh-seeded German Tommy Haas also advanced, beating No. 46 Spaniard Marcel Granollers, 6-4, 6-1. Haas earned a matchup with fifth-seeded and five-time tournament champion Roger Federer.
Martina Hingis was knocked out of her third tournament since she decided to come back after a six-year retirement from the WTA tour. She and doubles partner Daniela Hantuchova lost their second round match in straight sets against top seeds Italy’s Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.
Hingis and Hantuchova will play in New Haven, then head to the US Open thinking they can last a few rounds at least.
“Obviously, we went into it with not having big expectations,” Hingis said. “Just like touching the ground, but I feel like right now we have the level of beating and playing with the best out there.”
Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Peng Shuai of China, the third seeds and reigining Wimbledon champions defeated Vera Dushevina of Russia and Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain, 6-1, 6-1.
Seventh-seeds Chan Hao-ching of Taiwan and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia beat Russia’s Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova of Australia, 4-6, 6-3, 10-6.
Additional reporting by staff writer