NEW YORK-Serena Williams shook off some COVID-19 layoff rust to grind out a 7-6(6) 3-6 7-6(0) win over Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus on Monday to move into the third round of the Western and Southern Open. 

Williams’ matches are usually a huge drawcard but with no fans allowed due to COVID-19 safety protocols there was an atmosphere of relief rather than excitement after her hard-fought victory. “I was fine,” said Williams, when asked about playing without fans. “At one point I was pumping my fist and saying, ‘Come on’. “I had a crowd in my head or something. It was actually funny to me. For me, it was like there was a crowd there.” 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka, competing in her first WTA singles match since the season resumed, battled past Karolina Muchova 6-7(5) 6-4 6-2 to set up a clash with Dayana Yastremska. She was joined in the third round by former champion Victoria Azarenka, who staved off a late comeback attempt by Caroline Garcia to prevail 6-2 7-6(8). Petra Kvitova had also departed following a 2-6 7-5 6-2 defeat by Marie Bouzkova and Williams needed to draw on all her experience as Rus put her through a near three-hour workout. 

MURRAY CLAIMS BIGGEST WIN OF COMEBACK

Andy Murray claimed the biggest win of his comeback and a place in the last 16 of the Western and Southern Open on Monday by taking out self-destructing fifth seed Alexander Zverev 6-3 3-6 7-5. 

Murray jumped ahead 4-1 in the third but was left mumbling and scolding himself as Zverev broke the Briton twice on his way to sweeping the next four games and taking a 5-4 lead. But serving for the match Zverev double-faulted three times to gift Murray a break and extend the match. Murray then held serve and finished off the crumbling German, with the help of two more double faults, with a final break to register his first win over at top-10 ranked opponent since 2017. Next up for Murray is Milos Raonic, who advanced with a 6-3 7-5 victory over Dan Evans.