By Dave Gertler
(August 12, 2014) MASON, OHIO – The Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, began its qualifying rounds on Saturday, and is now in the completion stages of first-round matches in both the men’s and women’s main draws. On Tuesday morning, the tournament confirmed that Victoria Azarenka – the defending champion – has withdrawn due to injury, thus adding her name to those of Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin Del Potro and Li Na as notable absentees from the event, all due to injury.
“I’m going to get more treatment and get more work done,” said Azarenka about her plan for the remainder of the American hard court season, “And should be good for the US Open.”
Venus Williams, who last week in Montreal made it to her third WTA final in the last 12 months, won’t duplicate that success this week, having lost to 16th seed Lucie Safarova in the first round. In a match lasting 2.5 hours, Williams won the first set in a tie-break, but Safarova broke her opponent first each set, never giving up the lead, despite Williams breaking back in the second before Safarova served the match out.
“I think she just played so well,” said Venus Williams, “No matter what shot I hit she hit a winner, or if I hit it really deep she somehow managed to control it down the line.” Williams said in the third set, “I think she got a little tight at 5‑1. So I had some chances to come back, but it’s a deep hole.”
First-round men’s action saw Lleyton Hewitt and Alejandro Falla both advance before the end of the weekend, while Monday’s matches saw no significant upsets. American Jack Sock succumbed to Spaniard Tommy Robredo, while 23-year-old Ohio State graduate Chase Buchanan went down to Portugal’s Joao Sousa in an epic three-setter that lasted over 2.5 hours, touted match of the day by those who saw it.
British qualifier James Ward has provided the upset of the day so far on Tuesday, beating No.32-ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. In the second round, the 27-year-old Brit will face either Julien Benneteau or another local favorite, Blaz Rola, another graduate of Ohio State.
14th seed Marin Cilic advanced past Feliciano Lopez in two tight sets to face Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, who overcame compatriot Marcel Granollers in one of Grandstand Court’s most entertaining matches on Monday, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6.
Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler, read his blog, and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .