By Erwin Ong
CINCINNATI – Wednesday afternoon was standing room only on Court 9 at the Western & Southern Open, as fans tried to catch a glimpse of the 9-time Grand Slam doubles titleist Martina Hingis in her latest return to professional tennis. She and partner Daniela Hantuchova took on the No. 1 doubles team, Italians Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani. The Italians prevailed in this second-round match 6-4, 6-4.
Errani and Vinci were "just more consistent, more solid on the big points," said Hingis after the match. She and Hantuchova have been struggling to close on the deciding points in no-ad scoring.
Rafael Nadal opened the evening session with a routine win over qualifier Benjamin Becker. He showed no concern about knee troubles – "it’s healed", he said after the match, and is looking forward to a tough match against Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov. Should seedings hold, Nadal will face Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.
2011 French Open champion Li Na faced Ohio native Lauren Davis. The 5’2" American took the first set, matching Li’s power and speed from the baseline. Davis could not maintain the level of play and lost 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
The Americans in the draw all lost today except for Serena Williams and John Isner: Varvara Lepchenko went down to No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, Elena Vesnina upset Venus Williams, Russian qualifier Dmitry Tursunov beat wild card James Blake, and Davis lost to Li.
Other wins include Tomas Berdych, beating Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-2; Tommy Robredo defeating Stanislas Wawrinka 7-5, 3-6, 6-3; Caroline Wozniacki winning over Monica Niculescu, and Jelena Jankovic advancing with a victory against Ekaterina Makarova. Mona Barthel upset 16th seed Maria Kirilenko, which sets up a quarterfinal match for the German against Serena Williams.
The day’s big upset came in the evening when 8th seed Marion Bartoli, the reigning Wimbledon champion, could not overcome Romanian Simona Halep, going down 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
After the match, Bartoli announced her retirement from the sport. "I feel it's time for me to walk away," said the Frenchwoman while wiping away tears. "I made my dream [of winning Wimbledon] a reality and it will stay forever with me, but now my body just can't cope with everything."
Bartoli won 7 career singles titles and spent the last 8 years esconced in the Top 20. Her fellow players are often quoted as praising her work ethic. She is looking forward to the next chapter of her life. "Obviously I'm excited to live my future," she shared after the match. "I will have some time to think about it for the months [and] years to come."