No.4 seed Angelique Kerber became the third player to reach her 40th win of 2018 while Caroline Wozniacki was forced to retire after losing the first set to Kiki Bertens in a rainy day in Cincinnati that will force Simona Halep to come on court for a second consecutive day to complete her match against Ajla Tomljanovic, interrupted when the world No.1 was leading 46 64 43.
Beaten in the first round in Montreal to Alizé Cornet, the 2014 and 2016 runner-up Kerber completed her first victory since claiming her third Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. She needed to come back from a set down to defeat for the second time this year Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 4-6 7-5 6-4 at the Western & Southern Open, to move 7-6 up in their head to head, although the Russian leads 6-4 on hardcourts.
"I think this was really a match where I was fighting after the first set to coming back," Kerber said after the match, according to WTAtennis.com. " This is the kind of matches why I'm here. For me, the first matches are always not so easy coming to the tournament.
I think at the end I'm quite happy to be through." Making her eighth appearance at Cincinnati, Kerber has fallen at opening hurdle on two occasions here, in 2015 (l. Bencic) and 2017 (after a first round bye, l. Makarova after holding a match point), but she managed to avoid a third loss as she claimed the seventh win in eight matches against Russians in 2018, including the previous win over Pavlyuchenkova in Miami.
Kerber, ranked second on tour for overall wins and hard court wins (22) behind Halep who leads both categories with 42 and 24 wins respectively, aims to reach at least the quarter-finals stage for the seventh time in her eighth hard court tournament appearance this season, including a title run in Sydney and semifinal showings at Australian Open and Dubai.
Coming off the quarterfinals reached at Rogers Cup in Montreal, Kiki Bertens moved to the third round as No.2 seed Caroline Wozniacki was forced to retire with a left knee injury just after the lone Dutch player in the draw won the opening set 6-4.
Wozniacki, clearly bothered since the opening stages of the match delayed by rain for more than three hours, by contrast, has withdrawn from the Citi Open and fell in the second round in Montréal to Aryna Sabalenka.
"It's never nice to win when someone has to retire. I felt she was struggling a bit with her serve; she wasn't serving as well as she usually does. She seemed to struggle with her movement as well" Bertens admitted, the WTA reported.
When Wozniacki went to shake her hand, Bertens registered for the first time back-to-back wins in four main draw appearances in Cincinnati and collected her 11th victory in North America this season, including wins in 10 of her last 11 matches on the continent.
She opened her campaign ousting No.24 Vandeweghe, the highest-ranked opponent that Bertens has beaten in a first-round match-up since defeating No.3 Kerber at 2016 Roland Garros. The Dutch now trails 2-3 in their head to head against Wozniacki, but she has won the two most recent matches, having already beaten the Dane en route to the Madrid final earlier this year.
That Madrid win stands as her career-best win-by-rank, joined today by her 10th career Top 10 win, seventh of this season, as she defeated No.2 Wozniacki and No.7 Garcia at Madrid, No.9 V.Williams and No.8 Ka.Pliskova at Wimbledon and No.9 Ka.Pliskova and No.8 Kvitova in her last tournament in Montréal.
Scheduled to play final pre-US Open event next week at New Haven, Bertens will now meet Anett Kontaveit, who dispatched Maria Sakkari on Wednesday. The Estonian No.1 beat her at Connecticut Open two years ago while the Dutch clinched the most recent match-up in Gstaad in 2017.