Serena back on winning track in Cincinnati opener

Wed Aug 19, 2015 7:34pm EDT
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(Reuters) - In her final tune-up tournament before the U.S. Open, Serena Williams put herself back on the winning track with a 7-5 6-3 win over Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova in her opening match at the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday.

Williams prevailed in 90 minutes and showed none of the rare struggles that dogged her during last week's semi-final loss to Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic in Toronto.

The defending Cincinnati champion, who will aim for a rare sweep of the four grand slam events at the Aug. 31-Sept. 13 U.S. Open, broke Pironkova's serve once in each set and then sealed the win in style with her 15th ace of the match.

"There wasn't anything really tactical in particular for me today, I always just try to play my game and be consistent and stay focused,” Williams, who improved to 44-2 in 2015, said in a courtside interview.

The American world number one will meet Italian Karin Knapp in the third round. Knapp beat Russian Daria Gavrilova 6-4 6-1.

Williams is skipping next week's Connecticut Open in order to prepare for the U.S. Open, where she will look to earn her fifth consecutive grand slam singles title and fourth of 2015.

"There's definitely a lot of pressure ... I would like to win the Open, probably more than anyone else," said Williams.

"Whether I do or not, I'm going to try win it this year or next year and just keep going for that. So, it's not the end of the world."

In other women's action Romanian third seed Simona Halep beat Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 5-7 6-4 while Czech seventh seed Lucie Safarova advanced with a 6-4 7-5 win over American wild card Coco Vandeweghe.

(Reporting by Tim Wharnsby in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue)

Aug 19, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Serena Williams (USA) charges the net to return a shot against Tsventana Pironkova (not pictured) on day five during the Western and Southern Open tennis tournament at Linder Family Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports