CINCINNATI, OH, USA - Wednesday's play at the Western & Southern Open kicked off with straight-set victories by two seeded players, as No.8 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and No.16 seed Madison Keys moved into the third round.
Keys ousted Russia's Daria Kasatkina, 6-2, 6-1, while Kuznetsova got past Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, 6-3 6-4.
Keys survived a break point in the opening game of the first set, then went on a tear which included nine straight points en route to a 3-0 lead.
Kasatkina was unable to find any answers to the rest of Keys’ service games in the set, as the American dropped only three points on serve after her opening hold.
A wide Kasatkina forehand down set point gave Keys the first set behind 81% of first serve points won, and 15 winners (to Kasatkina’s 4).
The second set started as a carbon copy, as once again Keys had to save a break point in her opening service game, but then jumped out to a 4-1 lead after two love service holds and a quick break of Kasatkina.
The 20-year-old Russian tried to utilize slices and drop shots to her benefit, but could make very little impression on Keys’ power game during the match.
A Kasatkina double fault handed Keys a second break for 5-1, and a wide forehand by the young Russian gave Keys the victory after a brisk 49 minutes.
After a solid start to the year which saw her clinch her first WTA Tour title in Charleston, Kasatkina has not won consecutive matches since the French Open.
With the win, the 22-year-old American makes it past the second round in Cincinnati for the very first time in her career.
"I was doing what I needed to really well and attacking when I needed to attack," said Keys after the match. "Overall I think there wasn't really much that I was unhappy with today."
She advances to a tantalizing third-round encounter with Wimbledon champion and No.4 seed Garbiñe Muguruza, and Keys has won all three of their previous battles - including a semifinal victory at the Bank of the West Classic a fortnight ago.
Keys is currently in the midst of a six-match winning streak, going back to her run to the Bank of the West Classic title. "It feels like things are kind of going in the right direction," said Keys. "I feel like I have stopped forcing everything and taken a big, deep breath and kind of let things happen."
Meanwhile, Kuznetsova raced out to a 5-0 lead in the first set, using her speed to chase down everything Putintseva threw at her and creating powerful groundstroke winners from defensive positions.
The Kazakh was able to make a late charge, breaking Kuznetsova for 5-2 and saving two set points to hold for 5-3. But Putintseva put a backhand into the net in the next game, giving the Russian a 6-3 start.
Putintseva continued to push Kuznetsova early in the second set, and came out of a barrage of breaks with a 3-1 lead, but the two-time Grand Slam champion quickly leveled the match, and took Putintseva's service game at 4-4 on her third break chance.
From there, Kuznetsova cruised through her final service game and clinched the match with a bruising backhand winner on her second match point after one hour and 20 minutes.
The former World No.2 will try to match her quarterfinal appearance from last year when she takes on either Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain or Serbian qualifier Aleksandra Krunic in the third round tomorrow.
Other early winners included No.15 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, who dispatched Italy's Roberta Vinci, 6-2, 7-5, and Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi, who defeated Daria Gavrilova of Australia, 7-6(1), 5-7, 6-3.