CINCINNATI, OH, USA - Serena Williams said she played like an "amateur" in her loss to Belinda Bencic at the Rogers Cup on Saturday. Hitting 12 double faults contributed to the talented Bencic earning 19 break points. When was the last time Williams faced 19 break points? Was the elbow a factor?
Amid all the upsets in Toronto, Simona Halep emerged unscathed. Indeed, there was a return to form for Halep.
Faced with a quick turnaround, how will Williams, Halep and Bencic fare at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati? As always, the draw is important. Let's delve further into it.
First Quarter: Repeat Of Last Year's Final?
Getting closer to the US Open and potentially achieving the Calendar Year Grand Slam, Williams - even more so than in Toronto - won't want to overextend herself and particularly the elbow. At least that's one line of thinking. However, Saturday's defeat might have changed things: Williams, you'd imagine, would be pumped to right the ship. She's also playing in Cincinnati as the defending champion, having won a first title in Ohio last year.
Her path to the quarterfinals would seem to be gentle. It's either a qualifier or Tsvetana Pironkova (0-4 in Cincinnati, including qualifying) in the second round following a bye and should Williams progress, likely either Sara Errani or Daria Gavrilova in the third. As fine a week as Errani had in Toronto, she's 0-9 against Williams.
Williams topped Ana Ivanovic in the 2014 finale, and the Serb enjoyed a positive week in Canada working again alongside Nigel Sears. On paper trouble, however, could greet Ivanovic in the second round if Venus Williams shows up: Venus is 9-2 against Ivanovic and surely, too, wants to recover after last week's crushing loss to Sabine Lisicki.
Prediction: Serena def. Ivanovic
Second Quarter: Bencic Hoping To Maintain Momentum
Early this season in a Fed Cup series in Sweden, Bencic wasn't panicking despite a slow start to 2015. As it's turned out, she was right on the money - there was no need to panic. After a great grass court swing, Bencic flourished in Toronto and will now be at a career-high in the rankings come Monday. Williams was quick to praise her in Toronto.
But here's a test for the 18-year-old. Coming off such a big week, how quickly will she be able to focus for her first rounder in Cincinnati? Her opponent, too, will be difficult, a player who usually makes opponents earn every point - Stanford champion Angelique Kerber.
The Top 10 Czechs - Petra Kvitova, Lucie Safarova and Karolina Pliskova - all endured a forgettable stint in Toronto. Two, Kvitova and Safarova, surface in this quarter. After a bye, it could be CoCo Vandeweghe for Safarova in a repeat of their encounter at Wimbledon. Kvitova's opener last week was super tough, against Victoria Azarenka. This time around it might be a resurgent Sabine Lisicki.
Prediction: Kerber def. Kvitova
Third Quarter: Caro, Vika and Simona
This time last year, Caroline Wozniacki was making a charge. She played well in Canada - taking great pal Serena to three sets in the quarterfinals - and stretched Serena again in Cincinnati in the semifinals. But this summer, so far, hasn't been as fruitful. Like Serena, the Dane won't be lacking any motivation come the US Open, since she'll be defending all those points from making the 2014 final. Thus, she could do with some momentum.
Wozniacki relinquished a 5-2 lead against Bencic in the first set in Toronto and can ill afford to waste opportunities in Cincinnati - especially if her second round foe is Victoria Azarenka, another former No.1. Azarenka's four straight wins over Wozniacki, and in straight sets, suggest she'd advance if they do meet. Did many, though, expect the Belarusian to lose to Errani on the hardcourts in Toronto?
Contesting her first tournament since Wimbledon, perhaps a letdown was expected from Garbiñe Muguruza. She'll be eager to get back to piling up victories. Lower in the section rests Halep. She sought a good week in Toronto and got it. Halep will start against either Daniela Hantuchova or Kristina Mladenovic. The Romanian will need no reminding of the danger Mladenovic possesses - having upset Li Na and Eugenie Bouchard at Grand Slams, the Frenchwoman knocked off Halep herself on Birmingham's grass in June.
Prediction: Muguruza def. Halep
Fourth Quarter: Welcome Back, Maria
Maria Sharapova's return to the circuit after Wimbledon has been delayed thanks to a leg injury; Sharapova last played a competitive match against Serena Williams in the Wimbledon semifinals on July 9. Expect some rust, then - more so for Sharapova than when most of her peers came back in Stanford or Toronto - when the Russian plays her first match against either Varvara Lepchenko or Barbora Strycova.
Can Lepchenko or Strycova take advantage? Lepchenko, who strikes a heavy ball, has never faced the 2011 winner, while the last of Strycova's two tussles against the five-time Grand Slam champion took place five years ago.
If Sharapova advances, waiting in the third round could be either Agnieszka Radwanska or Alizé Cornet. Cornet, as we all know, isn't averse to pulling off upsets and made the third round in Toronto, where Radwanska stopped her.
After withdrawing from Toronto, Madison Keys won't be allowed to ease into the tournament given she meets Timea Bacsinszky straight away in another especially enticing first round contest. The winner could get Jelena Jankovic. Not many in the draw have excelled in Cincinnati the way Jankovic has: In eight previous visits, the Serb has only failed to make the quarterfinals twice - and she won the tournament in 2009.
Prediction: Sharapova def. Jankovic
Semifinals: Serena def. Kerber, Sharapova def. Muguruza