The Associated Press MASON, Ohio (AP) — Going small paid off big for Venus Williams.
Tuesday didn’t go as well for sister Serena.
On a day when back problems forced the younger Williams to withdraw before her second-round match, Venus Williams reached the third round of the Western & Southern Open with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4) upset of defending champion Kiki Bertens. Her key? Not going for it.
“I just tried not to go too big, because I can go so big and I have a lot of power and it’s not always easy to control it,” the 39-year-old Williams said. “So I’m trying to play smart instead of going hog wild, which is extremely easy to do.”
Hours before her match was scheduled to begin, Serena Williams withdrew, citing the same back injury that forced her to retire from the Rogers Cup final on Sunday in Toronto. The injury raises questions about Serena’s fitness ahead of the U.S. Open, which starts Aug. 26.
“I came to Mason on Sunday and have tried everything to be ready to play tonight, and was still hopeful after my practice this morning, but unfortunately, my back is still not right, and I know I should not take to the court,” Serena, winner of 23 Grand Slam titles and a two-time champion at Cincinnati, said in a statement.
Venus, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, is the oldest woman in the draw. She has made her deepest Cincinnati run since reaching the 2012 semifinals.
“It was just a second round, though,” Venus said. “For me, it’s just round-by-round. I have a third round to play. I’m ready for the next round.”
Bertens, seeded fifth, rallied from deficits of 3-0 and 5-2 in the third set to force a tiebreaker. The 2-hour, 17-minute match ended when she sailed a forehand wide.
On a star-studded day, top-seeded and defending champion Novak Djokovic cruised into the men’s third round with a 7-5, 6-1 win over wild card Sam Querrey.
Later, Roger Federer, the third seed who was playing for the first time since Wimbledon, needed 61 minutes — not including a 61-minute rain delay — to defeat Juan Ignacio Londerom 6-3, 6-4.
Djokovic felt a little rusty in his first match since his epic Wimbledon final triumph over Federer on July 14.
“It was kind of a nervous start,” he said. “I hadn’t played in weeks. It took time to adjust. It was a tricky match against a qualify opponent. He’s a big hitter. I was happy to be tested.”