Venus Williams took the first step towards injecting some momentum into her season with a straight-sets win over Caroline Dolehide in Montreal.
Williams joined top-10 seeds Karolina Pliskova and Julia Goerges in the second round with a 7-5 6-1 win over her fellow American on Monday.
After a magnificent 2017 during which she reached the Australian Open and Wimbledon finals and returned to the top five, Venus has slowed considerably this year, going 14-9 and slipping to world No.14.
Since Miami, where she reached the quarterfinals, she owned a lean record of 4-5 coming into the Montreal event.
Appearing to struggle physically, Williams trailed 3-1 in the first set against an opponent exactly half her age, yet managed to win 11 of the next 13 games to take command.
— Tennis Panorama News (@TennisNewsTPN) August 6, 2018
“I think she had a really great second serve,” Williams, the 13th seed, said. “I think I got a better feel for it in the second set. In the first set, I was still figuring it out. I hadn’t really seen her play.
“I think maybe she had more of an advantage because she’s probably seen me play more than I’ve played her. It was pretty close in the first set.”
She faces a Romanian next – either Sorana Cirstea or qualifier Monica Niculescu – while looming as a potential third-round opponent is another Romanian in world No.1 Simona Halep.
Williams reached the final in Montreal in 2014.
Another player looking to get her season back on track is No.9 seed Pliskova, who beat Katerina Siniakova 6-4 6-4 to set up a meeting with Wimbledon conqueror Kiki Bertens, should the Dutchwoman get past Canadian wildcard Carol Zhao.
This time last year the Czech was ranked No.1, but since winning her last title in Stuttgart in April she has reached one only semifinal in six events, and now sits just inside the top 10.
The self-styled “ace queen” managed just four aces while committing nine double faults on Monday, yet still subdued compatriot Siniakova in less than 90 minutes to progress.
She had a far easier time on court than Goerges, who scraped past Timea Babos 3-6 7-6(4) 6-4 in two hours and 20 minutes.
Goerges was coming off a shock loss to 17-year-old lucky loser Olga Danilovic in the Moscow quarterfinals, but rebounded against Babos to lock in a second-round showdown with qualifier Lucie Safarova.
Safarova, a former world No.5, recovered from 4-2 down in the second set and 5-2 down in the third to beat Daria Gavrilova 4-6 6-4 7-5.
Other first-round winners on Monday were Magdalena Rybarikova, Anett Kontaveit, Anastasija Sevastova and Lesia Tsurenko.
Maria Sharapova led qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva 4-1 before rain fell.
Local hope Milos Raonic gave the fans at the ATP Masters events in Toronto plenty to cheer when he dismissed 10th seed David Goffin in straight sets.
The former world No.3 beat the Belgian 6-3 6-4, helped by 13 aces and a flawless 27/27 record on first-serve points.
Goffin, meanwhile, is a lacklustre 2-4 since the French Open.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) August 7, 2018
Also moving on was 11th seed Diego Schwartzman – who crushed Kyle Edmund 6-1 6-2 – and No.12 seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who got past an injured Yoshihito Nishioka.
Qualifier Daniil Medvedev eliminated 13th seed Jack Sock while Benoit Paire, Borna Coric and Fernando Verdasco all scored first-round wins on Monday.
Paire next faces world No.1 Rafael Nadal, while Verdasco takes on fifth seed Grigor Dimitrov and Coric lines up against compatriot Marin Cilic, the No.6 seed.
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