STANFORD, United States: Serena Williams put a worrying Wimbledon behind her yesterday, launching her build-up to the US Open with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Karolina Pliskova at Stanford.
The American world number one, playing for the first time since her third-round singles exit at Wimbledon was followed by a dramatic doubles retirement, showed no sign of illness or rust as she rolled to victory over the 45th-ranked Czech in 64 minutes.
After enjoying a first-round bye, the top seed punched her ticket to the quarter-finals of the WTA hardcourt tournament, where she’ll face the winner of Thursday’s second-round match between former world number one Ana Ivanovic and Canadian qualifier Carol Zhao.
Second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska was less successful in her first outing since a disappointing Wimbledon.
Unseeded Varvara Lepchenko toppled the world number five 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 for her first win over the Polish star in six career meetings.
Radwanska, in her first match since a fourth-round Wimbledon exit, squandered a 3-1 lead in the opening set.
She broke Lepchenko three times to take the second set, but was on the defensive after an early break in the third.
Radwanska broke back to knot the set at 3-3, but Lepchenko, ranked 59th in the world, broke again for a 5-4 lead and seized her chance for a first career victory over a top-five player, holding serve in the final game to seal the triumph after two hours and 35 minutes.
With the US Open due to start on August 25, it was another disappointing outing for Radwanska.
She has yet to lift a trophy in 2014, and hasn’t reached a final since a runner-up finish to Italian Flavia Pennetta at Indian Wells in March. Lepchenko next faces US qualifier Sachia Vickery, a 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-1 winner over Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig.
Williams has captured titles at Brisbane, Miami and Rome in 2014, but she has failed to add to her tally of 17 Grand Slam singles titles, and the US Open offers her last chance this year to do so.
After falling in the third round of singles play at Wimbledon, Williams looked wobbly in a second-round doubles match from which she and her sister Venus eventually retired.
Since then Serena had withdrawn from a tournament in Bastad, but she said this week her time off had helped her recover from a virus and she showed no ill-effects yesterday.
Meanwhile, World number two Li Na of China announced yesterday that she will miss next month’s US Open as she struggles with a knee injury.
“I wanted to let all of my great fans know that unfortunately I am going to have to withdraw from the upcoming WTA events in Montreal and Cincinnati, as well as the US Open,” Li said in a statement on her Facebook page.
“Since March, I have been struggling with my knee and it is just not where I need it to be in order to play at the highest level.”