Withdrawals hit Cincinnati event as Bencic rolls on

Wed Aug 19, 2015 12:13am EDT
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(Reuters) - Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams were big-name withdrawals from the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati on Tuesday as they attempt to fully recover from injury and illness ahead of the U.S. Open.

Russian second seed Sharapova, who has yet to play since a semi-final defeat at Wimbledon last month, cited a leg injury for her exit.

"It's a tough decision to make but I think it's the right decision to be ready for the U.S. Open," Sharapova told reporters.

"It's not ideal preparation for New York, but that's the circumstance and I obviously want to give myself the best chance to be healthy there. That's the wisest move right now."

Williams was forced to pull out due to a viral illness, something that had bothered her in Monday's victory over Zarina Diyas, denying fans an attractive second round encounter between the American and former number one Ana Ivanovic.

"(It would) have been a tough match for both of us," Serbia's Ivanovic tweeted. "I hope she can get well fast."

The U.S. Open begins on Aug. 31.

On the court, Swiss prospect Belinda Bencic continued her brilliant run of form with a 7-5 6-3 first-round victory over Germany's Angelique Kerber.

Bencic, who shocked world number one Serena Williams in the semi-finals of last week's Rogers Cup before going on to clinch the title, fended off attempted comebacks by the 11th-seeded Kerber in both sets before sealing victory in 90 minutes.   Continued...

Aug 16, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Belinda Bencic (SUI) returns a ball against Simona Halep (not pictured) during the final of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Aviva Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports