Serena wins Cincinnati opener in straight sets
Serena Williams pumped her fist after each important point and screamed as she smacked another emphatic shot. The defending Cincinnati champion wasn’t going to ease into the tournament.
Williams put a lot of emotion into her opening match at the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday afternoon, a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Tsvetana Pironkova.
Williams won the Cincinnati tournament for the first time last year, getting one of the few titles that had eluded her. This year, she’s using it as a final tuneup for the US Open, where she’ll be the focus as she tries to complete a rare Grand Slam sweep. For her, this week is about getting her game ready to take a swing at history.
“I think it could be a lot better,’’ she said. “It’s not where I would want it ideally, but, you know, I’m going to have to fix that more mentally than anything. I think once I lock in there I will be OK.’’
She’s already starting to get locked in on New York by limiting her responsibilities away from the court.
“I’m really trying to stay away from stress and stay away from <g data-gr-id="41">press</g>,’’ Williams said. “But, you know, that’s a little difficult. “I don’t necessarily want to hear about, `Oh, this history and that history,’ because I just want to be able to do the best that I can. I want to be able to win and I don’t want any distractions. That’s how I’m going to handle it.’’
She beat Pironkova in an hour and 29 minutes, fighting off three break points in the first set. She broke her to win that set, then broke her again for a 5-3 lead in the second.
The start of the day’s matches was delayed 35 minutes because of rain, which fell again shortly after Williams completed her win.
Her sister, Venus, dropped out of the tournament Tuesday night with an illness. Maria Sharapova also dropped out with a lingering injury to her right leg. Third-seeded Simona Halep advanced with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 win over Kristina Mladenovic. On the men’s side, fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka rallied for a 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 win over Borna Coric. The French Open champion didn’t take control until he broke Coric’s serve in the sixth game of the third set and then held for a 5-2 lead. He will meet Ivo Karlovic in the third round.