After losing in the semifinals in Toronto at Rogers Cup, the defending Cincy champion was likely eager to gauge where she is with her game before attempting to claim her first Calendar Slam at this year’s U.S. Open.
She entered the stadium to lots of love from Cincy fans, but had a now-typical sluggish start. She allowed Pironkova to hang with her off the ground for the first ten games of the first set, but broke the match open at 5 all by holding her own serve then breaking the Bulgarian for the first time and taking the set 7-5.
“… She was playing really well in that game. I was just like, okay, it’s tiebreak time. Returning, just trying to play better every game. You know, she really gets a lot of balls back, so I was just really trying to fight and stay in there,” she said of the first set.
Minus a few hiccups of late, once the 21-Slam-Champion takes the first set she usually gains confidence and starts swinging out more making the win imminent.
She started the second set that way by decisively holding her first service game, but Pironkova didn’t wilt and leveled it at 1 all. The two traded games to 3 all, but as a dark rain cloud made its way over center court, Serena pressed the pedal and held her serve then broke for 5-3. With the end in sight, she cranked up the biggest weapon in women’s tennis and closed out the set and the match, 7-5, 6-3, finishing with an emphatic ace out wide. The rain came almost immediately.
She beat the Bulgarian and the rain, but she was extra pouty in doing so, possibly after effects of the Toronto loss?
“… Obviously I’m a perfectionist and I want to do really well and I want to win. I’m always a little more, you know, angry or focused, especially if it’s a loss I could’ve prevented…” she said.
She says she has fun out there, but you wouldn’t know it by her on-court antics. Like many of her recent matches, she looked rather tortured against the unseeded Bulgarian, though it didn’t negatively impact the outcome:
“I love playing and I’m really intense and somewhat of a perfectionist, but I’m playing in front of a great crowd, so I have to do my best,” she said during her on-court interview.
It was an emotional day at the office, but a good one in the end.
Sloane Stephens Battles Back to Defeat Mona Barthel
After recently winning her first title in Washington, Sloane Stephens expected to come to Cincinnati and build on the momentum she earned from the win.
In first round action of the Western and Southern, she handily dismissed her seeded opponent, Carla Suarez Navarro, but her second round match up found her battling a streaky Mona Barthel of Germany, who happened to be having a good day.
The American dropped the first set to Barthel and looked to be headed for a loss, but she bolted out of the gates in the second set quickly going up 3-0 under an ominous sky. Barthel found her footing again, though, and fought back to a 4-3 lead. After losing the lead, Sloane began swinging with urgency and won the next game for 4 all. Mona then held for 5-4. That’s when a hovering dark cloud then made good on the rain it was threatening and the match was suspended for over 2 hours, which proved to be Barthel’s undoing.
“It was a battle. Just one of those good old battles. Nothing too great, nothing too bad. Just — I mean, she was playing well, and I just had to find a way,” she said.
The delay killed the German’s momentum and once play resumed, a tiebreak commandingly went in Stephen’s favor and the third set was all hers. She stormed into the round of 16 with a 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2 scoreline.
“Today just wasn’t going that way, I wasn’t happy, but at the end of the day I was out there competing and fighting, and like I say, that’s all you can do,” she said of pulling out the win.
Serena will meet K. Knapp and Sloane will meet Ana Ivanovic next.
Other Round Two Results
Elena Svitolina (USA) took out struggling Canadian, Eugenie Bouchard; Coco Vanderweghe (USA) went down to Czech, Lucie Safarova; Madison Keys (USA) went down to Serbian, Jelena Jankovic; and Varvara Lepchenko advanced by beating Croatian veteran, Lucic-Baroni.
J. Donaldson (USA) lost to Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz; Sam Querrey (USA) lost to Spaniard, Tommy Robredo; Mardy Fish (USA) lost to Britain’s Andy Murray; and Jack Sock (USA) lost to South African, Kevin Anderson.