Serena Williams has exited the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati after a gruelling second-round defeat to Petra Kvitova.
The former world number one raced to victory in the opening round, but despite displaying some of her best tennis of late, she could not replicate the same form to advance to the last 16.
Number eight seed Kvitova applied the pressure from the start, breaking 23-time grand slam winner Williams twice in the first set.
Williams, who has won two titles in Cincinnati before, did not allow the momentum to drop in the second set, breaking her opponent in a marathon third game before grabbing a 5-2 lead and serving out for the set.
A nervy start to the third set saw both players drop their serve, but Kvitova found her stride to go 4-2 up and eventually emerge the 6-3 2-6 6-3 winner after two hours on court.
Loved every second of that battle. Always something special to share the court with @serenawilliams.
Thanks @cincytennis fans for staying out late 🙏
— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) August 15, 2018
Meanwhile, number six seed Caroline Garcia fought back from 2-0 down in the first set and 5-3 in the second to overcome Victoria Azarenka 6-4 7-5 in one hour and 36 minutes.
Fifth seed Elina Svitolina faced an equally tough match against Svetlana Kuznetsova, with the Russian threatening Svitolina’s lead in each set.
With the breaks going back and forth, the Ukrainian eventually held serve to seal a 7-6 (7/1) 4-6 6-4 victory.
Karolina Pliskova, the ninth seed, beat Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-3 6-3, while Belgian Elise Mertens also progressed after her 6-4 6-2 win over Magdalena Rybarikova, as did Australian Ashleigh Barty.
However, 17th seed Naomi Osaka is out after the Japan player lost 6-3 7-6 (10/8) to Maria Sakkari of Greece.
Germany’s Tatjana Maria progressed to the second round, where she will take on American world number three Sloane Stephens, the defending US Open champion.
Elsewhere, there were first-round wins for Italian Camila Giorgi and Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens, who defeated American Coco Vandeweghe 6-2 6-0.
Serena Williams has revealed she felt like she was “not a good mom” and was “in a funk” before pulling out of the Rogers Cup.
The Wimbledon runner-up withdrew from the Montreal tournament on Saturday citing “personal reasons”.
Earlier in the week she had suffered the worst defeat of her professional career in San Jose when she won just a single game against Johanna Konta.
In an Instagram post on Monday, Williams described her experience of tackling the challenges of motherhood while seeking further glory.
She wrote: “Last week was not easy for me. Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I just was in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom.”
Williams, who suffered life-threatening complications after the birth of daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr, highlighted how “postpartum emotions” can continue for several years.
She explained that, after discussing her emotions with family and friends, she was reassured “that my feelings are totally normal”.
Expressing empathy with other mothers, Williams said: “It’s totally normal to feel like I’m not doing enough for my baby.
“We have all been there. I work a lot, I train, and I’m trying to be the best athlete I can be.
“However, that means although I have been with her every day of her life, I’m not around as much as I would like to be. Most of you moms deal with the same thing. Whether stay-at-home or working, finding that balance with kids is a true art. You are the true heroes.”
Last week was not easy for me. Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I just was in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom. I read several articles that said postpartum emotions can last up to 3 years if not dealt with. I like communication best. Talking things through with my mom, my sisters, my friends let me know that my feelings are totally normal. It’s totally normal to feel like I’m not doing enough for my baby. We have all been there. I work a lot, I train, and I’m trying to be the best athlete I can be. However, that means although I have been with her every day of her life, I’m not around as much as I would like to be. Most of you moms deal with the same thing. Whether stay-at-home or working, finding that balance with kids is a true art. You are the true heroes. I’m here to say: if you are having a rough day or week–it’s ok–I am, too!!! There’s always tomm!
Williams returned to tennis earlier this year after giving birth in September 2017.
The 23-time grand slam winner looked to add to her tally before being defeated by Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon final in July.
Willams stressed at the time that there was nothing normal about her being back in a slam final so soon after childbirth and the life-threatening complications that followed.
She said after the final: “I have so much to look forward to and I’m literally just getting started.”
Eugenie Bouchard moved to within one win of the main Wimbledon draw after battling past Karolina Muchova 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in the second round of qualifying at Roehampton.
Canadian Bouchard was Wimbledon junior champion in 2012 and runner-up in the women’s singles two years later as she broke into the world’s top five.
However, after plummeting down the rankings to 191st, Bouchard missed out on a wild-card for this year’s tournament at the All England Club.
It looked like the 24-year-old was on course for a comfortable victory after taking the opening set in Wednesday’s second-round qualifying match at the Bank of England Sports Centre.
Czech 21-year-old Muchova then levelled up to put the outcome in the balance, before Bouchard’s experience saw her through on a first match-point chance.
Bouchard will next face the qualifying tournament’s second seed Mariana Duque-Marino after the Colombian world number 97 defeated Richel Hogenkamp 6-4 6-1.
“I didn’t feel like I was playing all that well, so I am just happy I was able to keep myself collected in the third (set) and find a way,” Bouchard told BBC Sport.
“I would be proud of myself for going through the (qualifying) matches. I have a match tomorrow, that is all I am worried about right now.”
On her journey toward competing at the major events again, Bouchard added: “I have learned a lot and I am just grateful to be able to play tennis.”