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Serena Survives, World No.1 Djokovic Holds Serve on Busy Monday at Western and Southern Open

Monday was a banner day at the Western & Southern Open, with eight former singles champions in action at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. 

There were also six former Grand Slam champions - Serena Williams, Petra Kvitova, Naomi Osaka, Victoria Azarenka, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray - with a combined 49 major singles titles between them. 

You’d think all that hardware would intimidate the competition but underdogs set the tone early in the day as two-time Cincinnati champion Serena Williams was pushed to the brink by Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus in a two hour and 47-minute thriller. 

Williams had to empty the tank to score the victory in a third-set tiebreaker, 7-6(6) 3-6 7-6(0), despite 52 unforced errors from her side of the court. The 2014 and 2015 Western & Southern Open champion is ramping up her bid to claim a record 24th major title at the US Open this summer, and needed every ounce of her energy to ensure she’d play another match this week. She was two points from defeat twice in the contest, but managed a break of serve to force a third-set tiebreaker before finishing off her 23rd career Western & Southern Open victory. 

Williams will face Maria Sakkari of Greece in the round of 16. 

The 23-time major champion remains upbeat about her form and her chances in New York, despite the scare against the World No. 72. 

“I'm taking it a day at a time,” she said. “I'm going to see how I feel tomorrow obviously. But I'm ready. I'm excited. I feel like I'm ready for anything.”

Keeping the upbeat theme for thirty somethings on Monday was three-time Grand Slam and two-time Western & Southern Open champion Andy Murray, who topped Germany’s Alexander Zverev for his first Top 10 win in over three years. The 33-year-old Scot, ranked 134 in the world at the moment and still rebuilding his ranking after multiple hip surgeries, has reached the round of 16 at a Masters 1000 event for the first time since May of 2017. 

Murray will face Milos Raonic on Tuesday in New York for a spot in the quarterfinals. 

Novak Djokovic shook off the rust early and also marched to victory. The World No.1 racked up his 22nd consecutive win by taking out Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis 7-6(2) 6-4. A champion in Cincinnati in 2018, Djokovic improves to 36-12 lifetime at the Western and Southern Open. 

“I think at the end of the day the bottom line is that we all want tennis to continue, we all want to compete - this is what we do, this is what we like to do,” Djokovic said after his match. 

He’ll square off with American Tennys Sandgren next. 

The day didn’t go as planned for second-seeded Dominic Thiem. The Austrian was dumped out of the draw by Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic 6-2 6-1. Thiem managed to win just two return points in the lopsided affair, which lasted just 62 minutes. 

“Didn't play well at all,” a dejected Thiem said. “Didn't get any rhythm. It's tough to understand right now, but, well, I will think about it, and hopefully I'll find better answers in the next days.” 

The Round of 16 kicks off tomorrow, view our full Broadcast Schedule to see how you can tune in.