Western and Southern Open 2019: Novak Djokovic Wins, Venus Williams Loses Friday

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 17, 2019

Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, returns to Pablo Carreno Busta, of Spain, during the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Mason, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

The 2019 Western and Southern Open is inching closer to its conclusion following Friday's quarterfinal matches in the men's and women's brackets. 

Both No. 1 seeds—Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty—kept their title hopes alive. Djokovic is looking for his second consecutive win in this event and overall following his triumph at Wimbledon in July. Barty is seeking her fourth singles title of the season, which would give her the most on the WTA in 2019. 

Venus Williams' run came to an end at the hands of Madison Keys. The 24-year-old only dropped five games in her straight-sets victory to reach the semifinals. 

Here are the results from Friday's action in Cincinnati and a look at the semifinals schedule, via WSOpen.com

                       

Western and Southern Open Results - Quarterfinals

Men's Bracket

No. 1 Novak Djokovic def. Lucas Pouille, 7-6 (2), 6-1

No. 9 Daniil Medvedev def. Andrey Rublev, 6-2, 6-3

Richard Gasquet def. No. 11 Roberto Bautista Agut, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-2

No. 16 David Goffin def. Yoshihito Nishioka, Walkover

             

Women's Bracket

No. 1 Ashleigh Barty def. Maria Sakkari, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0

Sofia Kenin def. No. 2 Naomi Osaka, 6-4, 1-6, 2-0 (Retired)

Svetlana Kuznetsova def. No. 3 Karolina Pliskova, 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3

No. 16 Madison Keys def. Venus Williams, 6-2, 6-3

             

Western and Southern Open Semifinals: Aug. 17

Men's Bracket 

No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 9 Daniil Medvedev

No. 16 David Goffin vs. Richard Gasquet

       

Women's Bracket

No. 1 Ashleigh Barty vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova

No. 16 Madison Keys vs. Sofia Kenin

            

Notable Results

Djokovic Cruises Past Lucas Pouille

It appeared there were two different versions of Djokovic on the court during his 7-6 (2), 6-1 win over Lucas Pouille. 

The first set was a challenge for the Serbian. One big problem for the top seed was Pouille's 68 percent success rate on his first serve. His ability to put the ball where he wanted helped combat the Djoker's usually stout defense. 

But Pouille couldn't sustain that performance for the entire match. After he was unable to steal the first set, the France native saw his first-serve percentage dip 25 points. 

Djokovic looked like his usual dominant self in the second set. He has won all three of his matches in this tournament in straight sets and advances to the semifinals with a group of competitors he's dominated throughout his career:

One of those three losses was to his semifinal opponent, Daniil Medvedev. It came in their last matchup in April at the ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo. 

If Djokovic is able to avenge that defeat, he will advance to the Western and Southern final for the seventh time in his legendary career. 

                      

Injury Forces Naomi Osaka to Retire vs. Sofia Kenin

Naomi Osaka's recent struggles continued Friday when she retired in the third set against Sofia Kenin because of a knee injury. 

This is particularly bad news for Osaka with the U.S. Open scheduled to begin Aug. 26. The world's top-ranked player had a similar situation in May, when a hand injury forced her to withdraw from the Internazionali BNL d'Italia prior to a quarterfinal match against Kiki Bertens. 

Osaka returned at the French Open two weeks later but was upset in the third round by Katerina Siniakova. 

Since claiming the Australian Open crown in January, Osaka has failed to win more than three matches in 11 consecutive tournaments.

The 21-year-old won her first Grand Slam last year at the U.S. Open. 

                 

Ashleigh Barty Overcomes Slow Start to Defeat Maria Sakkari

For the second straight day, Barty needed to overcome a one-set deficit to advance. Maria Sakkari pushed the women's top seed to the limit early, stealing the opener 7-5 before being steamrolled in the final two sets. 

Things started well for Barty when she jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the opening set. Even when her lead slipped to 5-3, she appeared to be in control before Sakkari went on a run that started when she broke the Australian's serve en route to winning four straight games. 

In the second set, Barty looked more like herself, and that carried through the end of the match. The 23-year-old won 12 of the final 14 games to pull off a comeback win. 

Barty explained her change in approach that allowed her to advance to the semifinals. 

"It was important for me at the start of the second set to go back to basics and what worked before," she told reporters. "I had to serve well, and not give her too many looks at second serves. I tried to bring in my slice to change the tempo of the match."

Early deficits against Anett Kontaveit in the third round and Sakkari in the quarterfinal have been strong tests of Barty's resolve. She responded well both times, and that should keep her from falling into a panic if something similar happens against another opponent. 

                   

Svetlana Kuznetsova Stuns 3rd-Ranked Karolina Pliskova

Svetlana Kuznetsova pulled off a dramatic comeback to stun No. 3 Karolina Pliskova and advance to the semifinals. 

Following a 6-3 win in the first set, Pliskova held a 5-3 edge in the second and was serving before Kuznetsova flipped a switch. 

The Russian kept her momentum going in the third set as she was able to close things out with a 6-3 win. 

A former French Open and U.S. Open champion, Kuznetsova had her career derailed by injuries to her knee and wrist that have limited her to 39 singles matches since the start of 2018. This is just her third time advancing past the second round in nine tournaments in 2019. 

Prior to her quarterfinal match, Kuznetsova discussed how the past year has shaped her, per WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen:

"I'm pretty happy. I didn't expect to play so well so fast back. Before this trip I was waiting for my visa. I was waiting for three weeks at home training. I had a program that [coach] Carlos Martinez gave to me. I was trying to follow the program. It's a really different experience for me because I always had a coach and now it changes.

"You have to mature, you have to take this responsibility. Other players, and maybe me, would pay anything for someone to come over and do it. But I believe tennis makes me mature and makes me do different things and makes me better."

This marks Kuznetsova's first appearance in a semifinal since winning the Citi Open last August. She will have her work cut out for her when she faces Barty on Saturday. 

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