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By Erik Gudris

Venus Williams beats Maria Kirilenko in Cincinnati 2012 (August 14, 2012) -- For many of the top WTA stars playing today at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, it was the first time they had stepped onto a hard court in several months as they prepare for the U.S. Open in only two weeks time.

Venus Williams was one of those getting some needed match play on the concrete as she took on Russia's Maria Kirilenko to start the day session. After winning the first set, Williams looked on course to wrap up a straight sets victory after she had multiple chances to serve out the second set. But errors from the former U.S. Open champion, including during a tiebreak that Williams had a lead in, saw Kirilenko force a final set.

But Williams recovered and dominated in the third set to close out a 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2 win.

"I think was putting too much emphasis on my serve," said Williams afterwards about the second set. "Just wanted to win it off the serve, and then when I had to hit some groundstrokes I just wasn't patient enough. Really should have just kind of stuck in there and just kind of worked the point and hit a lot balls and be ready to win the point. So I got a little impatient, and that doesn't work, especially against a player like her. I changed my ways in the third."

Sam Stosur showed little of the form that won her the U.S. Open last year as she took on Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues. After winning the first set, Stosur appeared ready to close out the second set tiebreak until a slew of errors from her trusty forehand side forced a final set.

Stosur quickly fell behind 0-4 but after breaking Medina Garrigues in a marathon sixth game, Stosur mounted a successful comeback to pull off a 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-4 win. Stosur, who has only won two complete matches since Roland Garros, talked about her confidence heading into New York.

"Yeah, for sure I would have liked to have won some more matches, but I think playing a match like this tonight and getting through that is a huge confidence booster. Hopefully I can really use that to, you know, get a bit of momentum and start building that confidence. It hasn't been the greatest record, but I haven't played too many matches, either. I'm just looking at it from the way I'm playing and not thinking about how many I have lost or won."

Health issues continue to be a factor in the event as No. 15 seed Nadia Petrova retired due to dizziness in her match against Ekaterina Makarova when down 7-6(8), 3-1 while Christina McHale was forced to stop due to a stomach illness against Chanelle Scheepers 3-6, 6-3, 3-0.

No. 2 seed Serena Williams closed out the night session against Greece's Eleni Daniilidou that saw the Olympic gold medalist and Wimbledon champion not looking quite her best as she struggled at times with Daniilidou's constant use of slice. Despite being broken mid-way through the second set and hitting 44 unforced errors, Williams recovered to advance 6-3, 6-4.

The biggest upset of the day belonged to Johanna Larsson who knocked out No. 8 seed Marion Bartoli in easy fashion 6-4, 6-2.

(Photo Credit: Tony Wagner,


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