• Venus, Sharapova exit, Federer back in groove

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    Roger Federer AFP PHOTO

    Roger Federer AFP PHOTO

    CINCINNATI: Roger Federer shook off the rust in his first match since Wimbledon as women’s drawcards Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams withdrew injured from the ATP and WTA Cincinnati Masters on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).

    Federer, who took more than a month off after losing the Wimbledon final to Novak Djokovic, beat Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-4, improving to 4-0 over the Spaniard without the loss of a set.

    But the 34-year-old said that he needed time to adjust again to match conditions after his hiatus.

    “It was a good win for me, it can only get tougher from here,” said Federer, seeking a record seventh title here.

    Venus Williams AFP PHOTO

    Venus Williams AFP PHOTO

    “I haven’t played in a long time and I felt a bit rusty at times in the first set. I need matches right now, so it was good to start well here.

    “I’m happy I got through this first one. Now I know what it’s about.

    “I have a day off tomorrow where I can think about how things went today, where I need to improve.”

    Sharapova has not played since Wimbledon and has now missed both of the major tune-ups prior to the US Open, which begins in less than a fortnight.

    The WTA number two is nursing a leg injury, which also prevented her from playing last week in Toronto.

    “It’s a tough decision to make, but I think a wise one, in order to give myself the right amount of time to be as healthy as I can be for the Open, which I believe is very realistic,” Sharapova said. “But I don’t know if it would be realistic if I did compete and start tomorrow.”

    Maria Sharapova AFP PHOTO

    Maria Sharapova AFP PHOTO

    Williams, who cited a viral illness, joined the Russian as a victim.

    The pullout of the American gave a walkover into the third round for 2014 finalist Ana Ivanovic.

    “I just wasn’t able to get out there tonight. Every match you have to be at your best, to win,” said Williams, who made her decision after pre-match warm-up. “I just couldn’t be at my best today.”

    US Open winner Marin Cilic, the seventh seed, beat Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-2, while Spain’s Feliciano Lopez stopped Canadian Milos Raonic 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 as the ninth seed lost an opening match for the second straight week.

    AFP

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