Tennis

Cincinnati | A rough day for the big names

It was a rough day for the big names at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, as Maria Sakkari, Belinda Bencic, Coco Gauff, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams all failed to get off first base on Tuesday, while Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova and Jelena Ostapenko advanced to round 2, and Anett Kontaveit led the charge into the Last 16.

I feel last week I played some great matches and maybe the best what I have played this year. I feel like slowly I’m there now. I think I finally got it to a better level. Hard court is my favourite. I always do well in America, so hoping for more matches here. Karolina Pliskova

France’s Caroline Garcia pulled off a major upset to book her own spot in the Round of 16 when the World No 35 ousted 4th-seeded Maria Sakkari from Greece, 7-6(2) 6-7(6) 6-1, in the 2-hour and 18-minute nightcap, which followed Emma Raducanu’s rout of Serena Williams in the previous match and reported elsewhere in detail [Click HERE].

Garcia, whose career-best ranking reached No 4, has now won 23 main-draw matches since June, which is more than any other player on tour during that time-frame, and her resurgent form includes title runs at Bad Homburg and Warsaw.

On Tuesday night, there were only 2 service breaks in total over the first 2 sets, but Garcia still nearly won the match in two breakers.

The Frenchwoman let a 4-0 lead in the second tiebreak slip away, allowing Sakkari to steal the set without facing a match point, and levelling the match.

Garcia, though, impressively regrouped in the decider, taking aggressive stances on return and powering through to reach the Last 16 in Cincy for the first time since 2018.

Switzerland’s Olympic gold medalist Bencic was seeded 12th here, but she was outlasted by Sorana Cirstea from Romania, 6-2 6-7(3) 6-4, in her opening round, which lasted 2 hours 38 minutes.

Coco Gauff (R) retired injured against Maria Bouzkova on Tuesday, casting doubts on the new Doubles World No 1’s participation in the Cincy doubles

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Gauff, who last week made the top spot in the world doubles ranking when she and Jessica Pegula won the title in Toronto, pulled out of her 1st-round match with an ankle injury against Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova after trailing 7-5, 1-0.

The youngest player in the field at 18 years old reportedly called for the trainer to look at a lower leg injury when she was up 5-3 in the first set.

Although the American carried on playing, she retired after the first game in the second set, having lost the first.

Gauff came to Cincinnati as the No 12 player in the world, but with her run in the singles draw over, her participation in the doubles with Pegula comes into question.

Depending on the extent the injury, she will see how she feels on Wednesday before deciding on whether to continue with her doubles campaign.

Including the retirement, Bouzkova now has 14 wins in her last 16 matches, including qualifying wins in Cincinnati over the weekend, while she has also reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final at Wimbledon and won her first WTA singles title in Prague.

Bouzkova will face another American, Alison Riske-Amritraj, in the 2nd-round, whom she beat in their only prior meeting at Wimbledon.

China’s Zhang Shuai advanced to the 2nd-round with a 6-4 7-5 defeat of 4-time major champion Naomi Osaka from Japan, who has yet to win a title in 2022.

Osaka was trailing Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi 7-6(4), 3-0 last week at the National Bank Open in Toronto when she withdrew from her opening match due to a back injury.

Simona Halep who passed the $40 million earnings mark by winning Toronto on Sunday, continued her run against Anastasia Potapova at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati on Tuesday

© Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Halep, who became only the 3rd WTA player to earn $40 million in her career, knocked off Anastasia Potapova on Tuesday.

The Romanian 15th seed joined Serena and Venus Williams as the only Hologic WTA Tour players to earn more than $40 million in career prize-money.

On Sunday, Halep won Toronto and collected a winner’s check worth $439,700, enough to push her over the financial milestone.

Heading into the Western & Southern Open this week, Halep has earned a total of $40,107,097, a little more than $2 million shy of the $42,300,728 Venus has made in her career, while Serena has more than doubled that amount with a pot of $94,606,355 in prize-money.

Including the ATP, only 7 players have earned more than Halep in their careers, with Novak Djokovic topping the list with $158,996,253 in earnings, while Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena round out the top four.

On Tuesday in Cincinnati, Halep began where she left off in Toronto, knocking off Russia’s Potapova in a back-and-forth 6-4 3-6 6-3 match that lasted 2 hours, 11 minutes, and involved a combined 15 breaks of serve.

Halep, a 2-time Grand Slam champion who has spent 64 weeks at the top of the rankings, won her 7th straight match, a season high, and moved back into the Top 10 on Monday.

“When I started the year I was not very confident and I set the goal to be, at the end of the year, Top 10,” she said Sunday after her match. “And here I am!

“So it’s very special moment. I will enjoy it. I will give myself credit. I’m just dreaming for more.”

That more could come this week in Cincy, where she is a 2-time runner-up.

Halep is next scheduled to play unseeded Veronika Kudermetova before a possible showdown with No 3 seed Paula Badosa in the Round of 16.

Karolina Pliskova was a straight sets winner over Venus Williams at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio

© Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Pliskova, the Czech 14th seed, saw off 42-year old Venus Williams, 7-5 6-1, to set up a meeting with Belgian Elise Mertens, who was an easy 6-1 6-1 winner over Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina.

From 4-2 down in the first set, the Czech won 11 of the next 13 games to win the match.

A 7-time Grand Slam singles champion, Venus did not face a break point in her first 3 service games, but did in the next 6, with Pliskova breaking for 4-4 in the opener and, after failing to convert 2 set points in the 10th game on return, made no mistake on her 3rd in the 12th game.

Venus later saved 3 break points in the 4th game of the second to quell some of Pliskova’s hard-earned momentum and deny her a 6th straight game, but her surge was short-lived as the Czech won the last 3 games, and 12 of the last 16 points.

“She played really good [in] the first set,” Pliskova said later. ”I was actually close to losing the first set because she was really playing well, but I thought the longer the match goes, the bigger chance should be for me.”

The 2016 Cincinnati champion is looking to build on the momentum she picked up last week by reaching the semi-finals in Toronto, her second of 2022.

“I feel last week I played some great matches and maybe the best what I have played this year,” Pliskova said. “I feel like slowly I’m there now.

“I think I finally got it to a better level. Hard court is my favourite. I always do well in America, so hoping for more matches here.”

She is already on a roll, as the Czech served up 8 aces in her opening win, bringing her career total at the event to 152.

Ostapenko, seeded 16 and from Latvia, stopped Beatriz Haddad Maia from Brazil, 6-4 6-4, after an hour and 24 minutes.

Haddad Maia has been one of the WTA’s breakout stars this summer, with an awesome run on grass followed by a runner-up performance last week in Toronto, but the Brazilian was no match for Ostapenko and the Latvian broke her 4 times while winning 15 of her 20 second-serve points.

Ostapenko next takes on American Madison Keys, who dispatched Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, 7-5 6-3.

Shelby Rogers saw off Sofia Kenin with the loss of just 3 games on Day 2 at Cincy

© Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Elsewhere, Shelby Rogers moved into the 2nd-round, breezing past fellow American and 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, 6-2 6-1.

Rogers and Kenin had not met since 2016, when they split their 2 meetings at ITF Challenger events.

Over 6 years later, Rogers took the 2-1 lead in their rivalry with a 66-minute victory, making a staggering 92 percent of her first-service points in Tuesday’s match, 23 of 25.

Rogers, currently ranked at a career-high No 30, also fired 9 aces and never faced a break point.

Later on Tuesday, No 2 seed Anett Kontaveit became the first competitor to reach the Round of 16 this week, earning a 3-6 7-5 6-4 rain-interrupted win over Czech qualifier Tereza Martincova after two-and-a-half hours of play.

Martincova, the World No 71, led by a set and a double-break at 3-0 before the Estonian stormed back, winning 5 of the last 6 games in the second set.

An additional wrench was thrown into the works when an hour-long rain delay hit Cincinnati at 3-2 in the third set.

Upon resumption of play, Martincova went up a break at 4-3, but Kontaveit again fought back, converting her 4th break point of the next game to level the decider at 4-4.

Kontaveit stayed sturdy and claimed a second consecutive break at 5-4 to seal the victory.

In other Tuesday results, qualifier Marta Kostyuk from Ukraine took out Italy’s Camila Giorgi, 6-4 5-7 6-4, while another qualifier, Anna Kalinskaya from Russia, dispatched Italian Martina Trevisan, 7-6(2) 7-5.

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