Sluggish Serena Williams survives Arantxa Rus in Cincinnati opener

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Third seed Serena Williams displayed poor form and lack of energy in her first match at the Western & Southern Open against qualifier Arantxa Rus, but managed to advance to the third round by forcing a third-set tiebreak and then racing through it without losing a point, 7-6(6) 3-6 7-6(0).

Facing 72nd-ranked Rus for the second time in her career, the two-time Cincinnati champion Williams saved a set point en route to winning a tense first set in a tiebreak. Note that the 59-minute opening set featured no breaks of serve and only one break point! Rus then leveled the match by winning six of the final eight games in the 40-minute second set and recovered from a 2-5 deficit to level the decider in which she was two points away from victory twice. Williams somehow managed to force a tiebreak in the third set and for some reason Rus was nowhere to be found in it.

The decider alone lasted 68 minutes and this is Williams’ longest match since 2012 Roland Garros when she lost to Virginie Razzano.

While Williams’ movement and energy level were not impressive today, her serve was working very well. She made just one double fault and hit a total of 14 aces, eight of which came in the first set. Rus was very close to winning consecutive matches at a Premier event for the first time, but Williams scraped through and booked a third-round meeting with Maria Sakkari of Greece.


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