Masters event acts as a warm-up ahead of the US Open.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray overcame some anxious moments to post straight-set victories in their opening matches at the ATP-WTA Cincinnati Masters.
Top seed Djokovic had to fight back after his game went awry briefly in the opening set on the way to a second-round win over Argentine Juan Monaco 7-5, 6-2.
Second-seed Murray kick-started his run-up to his US Open title defense with a resounding 6-2, 6-3 defeat of Mikhail Youzhny in their second round match. Both players received a bye in the first round.
Murray, the world number two, who was eliminated a week ago in the Montreal third round, made sure that was not repeated at this hardcourt tournament.
He needed just 70 minutes to see off his Russian opponent and move into a match with Julien Benneteau of France.
Djokovic is trying to complete an unprecedented career haul of all nine Masters 1000 titles and only needs to win here in order to reach the goal.
“I stopped moving my legs, I didn’t really go for my shots,” he said of his play in the first set.
“I let him dictate the play and waited for his mistake, which was not the right tactic. It was the first match here in Cincinnati, which has different conditions from what we played (last week) in Montreal.”
Djokovic eventually sorted himself out and will next square off against Belgian qualifier David Goffin, who defeated Canada’s Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (8/6).
Murray lost his only service game against Youzhny midway through the second set but did not show alarm with the comfort of another break in hand. He claimed victory on a forehand error.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to get through this one,” Murray said. “With the US Open only a couple of weeks away, I need to stay in form.”
Murray has twice won the Cincinnati event, both times at the expense of Djokovic.
Montreal champion Rafael Nadal began with a victory over Benjamin Becker 6-2, 6-2, while Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych eliminated Finn Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-2.
“It’s a little bit slower here than in Montreal,” Nadal said. “When you have these kind of tournaments back to back it’s not easy, but I’m very happy with the way I played this afternoon and the way that I adapted to the game.”
Argentine seventh-seed Juan Martin del Potro put out Nikolay Davydenko 7-5, 7-5, while American John Isner set up a duel with another big hitter in Montreal, finalist Milos Raonic.
Isner beat French eighth-seed Richard Gasquet 7-6 (8/6), 6-2 while Raonic defeated Janko Tipsarevic 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
Women’s top seed Serena Williams overcame early jitters similar to those of Djokovic when she lost the first set to Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard before winning 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
The American said she produced the worst shot she can ever remember at one stage in the one hour, 47 minute match.
“I even had an easy approach shot and it went not slightly wide, it was like 50 feet out,” Williams said.
“That was actually embarrassing. I thought I’d never hit a shot like that professionally.”
Former French Open champion Li Na rallied past American Lauren Davis 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 after a shaky start to her week.
Number six Sara Errani defeated Polona Hercog 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 while 12th seed Roberta Vinci won a struggle with German Andrea Petkovic 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3.
Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon winner, beat New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic 6-4, 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, German ninth seed Angelique Kerber stopped Alisa Kleybanova 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 and former number one Caroline Wozniacki defeated Monica Niculescu 6-4, 6-3.