Tennis

Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic cruise in Cincinnati

Top seeds make light work of opponents, Serena withdraws with back trouble

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic overwhelmed opponents at the Cincinnati Masters in Mason, Ohio, yesterday morning (Singapore time), but Serena Williams withdrew because of back trouble.

For Djokovic and Federer, back in action for the first time since the Serb's victory over the Swiss in the Wimbledon final last month, it was a smooth start to their build-up for the US Open starting in Flushing Meadows on Aug 26.

Federer, seeded third, remained unruffled by a one-hour rain interruption at 2-2 in the second set, eventually defeating Argentina's Juan Ignacio Londero 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round at the event he has won seven times.

RAIN DELAY

"I'm very happy, even if it was a bit tricky with the rain delay," Federer, 38, said. "I'm happy to be back on court. This is the start of a long, long hardcourt swing.

It's good to begin with a win.

"I didn't know that much about my opponent - he's new to the tour - but, at the end, you have to concentrate on your own game."

Defending champion Djokovic double-faulted three times as he dropped serve in the opening game against Sam Querrey, but quickly put things right and pulled away for a 7-5, 6-1 victory over the American.

"I ended the match well even if the start was nervy," said Djokovic, who broke Querrey twice to take the first set before rolling to victory. "Sam was feeling comfortable on the court at the start and dictating. It was tough facing his big serve."

He added that he was "hoping for a better performance in the next round" against Spanish qualifier Pablo Carreno Busta - who withstood 32 aces from John Isner and a match-point before beating the American 6-4, 6-7 (1/7), 7-6 (8/6).

In early action, Stan Wawrinka eliminated 2017 Cincinnati champion Grigor Dimitrov 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).

Williams, meanwhile, had hoped to rebound from the back spasms that forced her out of the Rogers Cup final against Bianca Andreescu in Toronto last Sunday, when she lasted only four games before retiring.

But the 23-time Grand Slam champion pulled out of her scheduled first-round match against qualifier Zarina Diyas at the Cincinnati Masters, casting a further shadow on her chances of competing at the US Open.

"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," Williams said in a statement.

"But, unfortunately, my back is still not right."

It's another injury blow for the 37-year-old American, who was hampered by knee trouble earlier this season and remains in search of her first title since the 2017 Australian Open.

Venus Williams, however, kept the family flag flying as the 39-year-old American put her decades of experience to good use in a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4) victory over defending champion Kiki Bertens. - AFP

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