Stephens and Djokovic Prevail on Busy Wednesday
It was a Grand Slam champions day on the Grandstand Court at the Western & Southern Open as Sloane Stephens, Novak Djokovic, Angelique Kerber, and Stan Wawrinka all took to the court.
The four players combine for 20 Grand Slam titles between them, with Stephens owning one title, Djokovic thirteen, and both Kerber and Wawrinka owning three each.
First up for the day was 2017 US Open winner  Sloane Stephens, who dispatched Tatjana Maria with relative ease, 6-3 6-2.
Stephens, a finalist last week in Montreal, is looking to follow up her 2017 American hard court success that propelled her to the top level of women’s tennis with another strong showing this summer.
Maria threw her full bag of tricks at the American but it wasn’t enough to undo Stephens’ power and poise.
Sloane Stephens will take on  Elise Mertens in the Round of 16.
Novak Djokovic, the 2018 Wimbledon champion and winner of 13 Grand Slam titles, took the court next against tricky Adrian Mannarino.
Djokovic, the ten seed in Cincinnati, has struggled post-Wimbledon, failed to make it past the third round in Toronto, struggled Monday night in his first round win over American Steve Johnson and again for the first part of this match.
Mannarino gave Djokovic fits in the first set, keeping the Serbian on the wrong foot with his awkward pace and shot selection, ultimately taking the first set 6-4.
Djokovic would right the ship quickly, adjusting his game to take the last two sets and the match by a score of 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
Djokovic has never won in Cincinnati, making the finals five times, is still attempting to be the first make to win all Masters 1000 titles in his career, a feat that neither Nadal or Federer has yet to accomplish.
“I think it adds more to the motivation rather than pressure,” said Djokovic of his quest for a title in Cincinnati. “I really want to win this tournament, and I have been trying. I’m still in the tournament this year, and hopefully I can get a shot at the title.”  Angelique Kerber was next up on the court, dispatching Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 to set up a date with  Madison Keys in the Round of 16 Thursday afternoon.
The two women were on serve late in the first set before the rain moved in, forcing an hours long rain delay. When the players returned to court, Pavlyuchenkova broke and took the first set.
Kerber went up 5-3 in the second set, looking to force a decisive fourth set, before Pavlyuchenkova broke to get within a game. Kerber would up play and win the next four games before holding on for dear life to win the third set and the match.
“I think this was really a match where I was fighting after the first set to coming back,” Kerber said after the match. “I think that that was really an important match for me, to get my rhythm, feel the ball, play tough and close matches again, especially now after few weeks off.”
The fourth match on Grandstand featured three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori. Both players are coming back from varying injury layoffs and are not accustomed to meeting this early in a tournament.
Nishikori was the first man to strike, breaking Wawrinka’s second service game to take a 4-1 lead.
But that was all the momentum he had in the match. Wawrinka would go on to win seven straight games to take a 6-4, 3-0 lead before riding out the early second set break to take the match 6-4, 6-4.
“I’m really happy with the match, with the level,” Wawrinka said post-match. “I think from 1-4 down I start to play really well, moving well, changing a lot of rhythm being really aggressive, playing the right game.”
Other notable results from Wednesday:
Robin Haase d  Alex Zverev 5-7, 6-4, 7-5
Lesia Tsurenko d  Garbine Muguruza 2-6, 6-4, 6-4
Aryna Sabalenka d  Karolina Pliskova 2-6, 6-3, 7-5