MASON: Venus Williams — a seven-time Grand Slam champion — lost the first three games before roaring back for a 6-4, 6-1 win over qualifier Jana Cepelova at the Cincinnati WTA and ATP Masters on Monday.
37th-ranked Williams was playing just her second match since losing in the first round of the French Open. She lost in the first round of the Rogers Cup at Toronto last week.
“I had a slow start,” Williams said. “I was missing shots, but I was being aggressive, so I realized if I had made a few more that it would probably be the other way for me.
“She was really determined, I thought. She just looked really determined and really just energetic. She was definitely going to take it to me, so it was good to turn around and get a win. Feels good, yeah.”
Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova will compete in the event together for the first time.
The top-ranked Williams, who won the Rogers Cup in Toronto on Sunday, has never won the Western & Southern, losing in the quarterfinals last year to the then-fifth-seeded Kerber.
“I’m motivated and happy and definitely feeling healthy,” Williams said Monday.
The second-ranked Azarenka pulled out of the Rogers Cup last week to rest a sore back.
“I feel good,” Azarenka said. “The first (tournament) back is always a little challenging to your body.”
In men’s play, James Blake upset No. 16 seed Jerzy Janowicz 6-1, 7-5.
The 33-year-old Blake reached the tournament’s second round for the second straight year.
“He’s a really good player,” Blake said of Janowicz. “I knew he could be a little up and down. He definitely didn’t have his best first set.”
Mardy Fish of the United States lost to 26th-ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 6-2, while No. 32 Juan Monaco eliminated 33rd-ranked Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-2; 30th-ranked Jeremy Chardy beat qualifier Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-3 and No. 20 Janko Tipsarevic bounced back from losing a first-set tiebreaker to defeat 28th-ranked Sam Querrey 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4.
Nicolas Almagro became the first seeded player to fall, losing to Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (3), 6-4. Fabio Fognini was upset by Radek Stepanek 6-2, 6-4.
In women’s upsets, wild-card Lauren Davis beat Klara Zakopalova 7-6 (3), 7-6 (1), and wild-card Vania King, ranked 140th, stopped No. 38 Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 6-4.
Qualifier Marina Erakovic ousted 20th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 6-4. Also, Alisa Kleybanova, the WTA’s 584th-ranked player, outlasted 85th-ranked Sofia Arvidsson for a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7) win.
Simona Halep rallied to defeat Hsieh Su-wei 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-2, and 16th-seeded Maria Kirilenko was pushed to the limit by qualifier Anna Tatishvili before prevailing 4-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4).
Sharapova is the only one of the top three female players to earn a Western & Southern title, winning in 2011.
The event is her first since losing in the second round at Wimbledon. She’s also been bothered by a hip injury.
“Everything is feeling fine,” the third-ranked Sharapova said. “I’m at the stage of my career where I have the luxury of making sure. I love playing a full schedule, but I’d rather come in here feeling good and healthy. I haven’t played in weeks, so I might be a little rusty.”