Serena Williams won her opener at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati on Monday. In the final tune-up tournament before the US Open begins on Aug. 28, Williams faced Daria Gavrilova in the first round, winning in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2.

Williams looked sharp in her first match since a lopsided loss to Johanna Konta in San Jose. It’s been an ordeal progressing through the birth of her child, the health complications that came from it, and balancing life on the tour with raising a child, but Williams has shown plenty of greatness on the court since then and will be pushing hard to end the year on a high note.

The first set was quickly dominated by Williams, who looked sharp and only looked better as the set went on. She was hitting with power, and scored a few aces early on in the set to go up a couple breaks.

Serving for the set at 5-1, she served up another ace, but also had a double fault, giving Gavrilova a break attempt. Williams served up her fifth ace to bring it to deuce, and quickly won the next two points to take the first set at 6-1, fighting off the break. She only lost five points total on her serve in the opening set.

The second set saw Gavrilova quickly hold serve, but so did Williams, who then had a triple break attempt on the very next game. She got it on the second try, going up a break. Another quick hold for Serena, and Gavrilova responds with a quick one of her own.

It was a more competitive set overall, but a Williams hold followed, then a break point attempt that Gavrilova successfully brought back to deuce. Another break attempt followed, but Gavrilova saved it. Then she had a chance to win the game, but double faulted back to Deuce. Break attempt No. 3 came shortly after, and Williams sealed it, going up 5-2 and serving for the set. Williams had a double match point attempt, and she hit an ace to seal it.

Williams returned from the birth of her child, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., and the complications that came with it, earlier this year, competing at the French Open and Wimbledon as well as a couple other tournaments, none of which she won. She made it to the fourth round of Roland Garros before withdrawing with a pectoral injury, and made it to the final of Wimbledon, where she fell to another top player, Angelique Kerber.

After that, Williams skipped the Rogers Cup for personal reasons (not uncommon among top players by any means), but is playing in Cincinnati to prepare for the US Open, which begins at the end of August. She also entered the Silicon Valley Classic, where she suffered the aforementioned loss to Konta.

But other than that loss, she’s looked plenty good — far too good to even consider the possibility that she’s “lost it.” The Cincinnati tournament is the final major tune-up prior to the start of the US Open, and like Roger Federer, who also skipped the Rogers Cup, she elected to play, entering the tournament unseeded and facing Gavrilova in her opener.

Her sister, Venus Williams, is not in the field, but just about every other big name is.

Williams will next face Petra Kvitova, the eighth seed who got a bye for the first round, on Tuesday evening.

The winner of the match against Kvitova will go on to play the winner of the matchup between Kristina Mladenovic and Viktoria Kuzmova, and then a potential quarterfinal matchup with the third-seeded Sloane Stephens could be in the cards, provided Stephens is sufficiently recovered from the marathon final she fought against Simona Halep in Toronto.

Both Stephens and Halep got byes as well, as two of the top seeds in the tournament (Halp being No. 1, and Caroline Wozniacki splitting the pair at No. 2).

Gavrilova and Williams had previously met twice before, with Williams winning both matches. They had not played each other since 2016 at the Olympics.

Other notable players who won their openers on Monday include Svetlana Kuznetsova, Madison Keys, Victoria Azarenka and Kei Nishikori.


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