Bartoli retires, top seeds advance in Cincy
By JOE KAY
MASON, Ohio — The day’s only noteworthy upset prompted an unexpected announcement. Just like that, Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli is finished with tennis.
The eight-seeded French player got knocked out of the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday night in three excruciating sets that left her Achilles, shoulder, hips and back aching. While the tournament’s other top seeds moved on, she pulled out.
“It’s been a tough decision to take,” said the 28-year-old Bartoli, who won her first Grand Slam title less than two months ago. “I don’t take this easily. I mean, I’ve been a tennis player for a long time and I had a chance to make my biggest dream a reality. I felt I really, really pushed through the ultimate limits to make it happen.
“But now I just can’t do it anymore.”
Bartoli’s 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 loss to Simona Halep overshadowed a day when most other second-round matches turned out as expected, even if they didn’t necessarily start that way.
Top-seeded Serena Williams overcame what she described as one of her worst sets before beating qualifier Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in her opening match.
“So it was just some crazy tennis out there,” Williams said.
At least she won.
Older sister Venus Williams lost in her second match of the tournament, falling to Russia’s Elena Vesnina 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. The 33-year-old Williams is slowly working back into shape after missing most of the summer because of a lower back injury. Cincinnati was only her second event since the French Open.
Sloppy starts were a common theme for the top-seeded players on Wednesday. No. 1 Novak Djokovic had a ragged first set while beating Juan Monaco 7-5, 6-2, leaving him 8-0 career against the Argentine.
Djokovic has never won in Cincinnati, the only one of the nine Masters series events that has eluded him. No player has won all nine, so he’s got a chance for something notable — if he can get accustomed to the conditions quickly enough.
“As the matches go on, you kind of have to find your way and your rhythm,” Djokovic said.
Serena Williams has a breakthrough on the line this week as well. She won at Toronto on Sunday, equaling her career best with her eighth singles title this season. She’s never done all that well in Cincinnati.
If she doesn’t do much better than in her opening match, she won’t be around very long this time, either.
“I have to get used to (the conditions) because this is a tournament I don’t have on my roster. And if I play like today, I’ll continue not to have it.”
Williams had 37 unforced errors. Twenty-two of them came off her forehand, including one that she won’t forget in that ugly first set on a center court that seems to entice her worst tennis.
“I even had the easiest approach shot and it went not slightly wide, it was like 50 feet out,” she said. “That was actually embarrassing. So I thought I’d never hit a shot like that professionally. I have maybe in practice with my eyes closed, but never conscious have I hit a shot like that.”
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray had an easy time in his opening match at the tournament, which he has won twice. The second-seeded Murray needed only 69 minutes to beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-2, 6-3.
Murray, who is also the defending U.S. Open champion, was coming off a third-round loss last week in Montreal, his first action since becoming the first British male to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. He’s using the tournament in Cincinnati to get ready to defend his Open title.
“He made more mistakes than I expected,” Murray said. “I just want to play as many matches as I can. It’s important to get a few matches in before New York. I didn’t make too many errors and hit a high percentage of first serves.”
In a night match, fourth-seeded Rafael Nadal beat German qualifier Benjamin Becker 6-2, 6-2, running his streak to 11 straight wins on hard courts.
“I should be very happy with the way that I played since the beginning,” Nadal said. “Just for a few games, the serve was down a little bit. For the rest, I think I played a great match.”
Martina Hingis got knocked out of her third tournament since she decided to come back after a six-year retirement from the WTA tour. She and doubles partner Daniela Hantuchova lost 6-4, 6-4 to Italy’s Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, the top-seeded pair.
Hingis and Hantuchova will play in New Haven to get in a few more matches, then head to the U.S. Open thinking they can last a few rounds at least.
“Obviously, we went into it with not having big expectations,” Hingis said. “Just like touching the ground. But I feel like right now we have the level of beating and playing with the best out there.”
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