October 23, 2021

THE ONLY TENNIS SITE

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Serena Williams was spent, but happy after reaching the third round of "Cincy".

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There was a lot of action Monday inside the US Open bubble.

And two US Open champions, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, had challenging opening matches.

Serena Williams got so heated, she even ditched the skirt that wraps over the body suit part of her kit and finished it up half-dressed.

She said she had scouted opponent Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands in her first round, but that they didn’t see anything close to the level the lefty displayed Monday.

Ultimately, Williams prevailed 6-7 (6), 6-3, 7-6 (0).

She dropped 14 aces on Rus, brought the road – and will now face No. 13 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece in the third round Tuesday.

Here’s what she said.

A pain in the neck for Djokovic

Novak Djokovic pulled out the doubles because of a neck problem. And after the first set of his 7-6 (2), 6-4 win over Ricardas Berankis.

Djokovic had eight aces, but seven double faults.

He’ll face American Tennys Sandgren Wednesday.

Osaka’s return a tough one

2018 US Open Naomi Osaka didn’t play any of the exhibition events or World Team Tennis during the shutdown.

And she got off to a slow start against the very talented all-court Czech, Karolina Muchova.

But she finally found her level, winning 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2 and dropping 12 aces in the process.

She’ll play No. 16 seed Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine in the third round Tuesday.

Here’s what she said.

Kvitova out at first time of asking

Petra Kvitova, who has never thrived in the New York City conditions, began well but ultimately fell to Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Kvitova had three aces and 10 doubles faults; Bouzkova had three aces and eight double faults. But Bouzkova, who only had four break point opportunities against her more decorated countrywoman, converted on every single one of them.

Dramatic finishes

In a David vs. Goliath clash – WTA style – qualifier Cici Bellis gave No. 5 seed Aryna Sabalenka everything she could handle before the Belarussian prevailed 6-7 (1), 6-4, 7-5.

Bellis saved 11 of the 17 break-point opportunities she offered on her serve. But it wasn’t quite enough.

Azarenka to the third round

Victoria Azarenka’s first-round win over Donna Vekic was impressive and clean. She continued right on that path in a quality 6-2, 7-6 (8) victory over Caroline Garcia – a master class in clean hitting.

She’ll play Alizé Cornet, who upset No. 1 seed Karolina Pliskova Sunday, in the third round.

No. 7 seed Keys is out

Madison Keys was a shadow of her best level in a desultory 6-4, 6-1 loss to unseeded Ons Jabeur.

Keys won just 3-of-21 points on Jabeur’s first serve and just 7-of-21 on second serve. She never even earned a break point while had 10 on Keys’s normally strong serve (she converted six of them).