World number one Novak Djokovic and Britain’s Andy Murray were both handed tough examinations en route to the third round of the Cincinnati Masters.
Wimbledon champion Djokovic, aiming for a historic career grand slam of all nine ATP 1000 Masters titles, had to contend not only with being broken but also some trick shots from France’s Benoit Paire, who ultimately succumbed to a 7-5 6-2 defeat.
A relieved-looking Djokovic told Sky Sports 3: “He’s an entertaining player, a very nice guy off court. We practice a few times and this is the first time we have played in an official match. I expected the unexpected.”
Djokovic will play David Goffin in the next round, while world number two Murray is up against Grigor Dimitrov after resisting a spirited challenge from veteran hardcourt specialist Mardy Fish.
The 33-year-old American, who will retire after the US Open, broke Murray to take a 4-3 lead in the second set but could not hold out and lost 6-4 7-6 (7/1).
Rafael Nadal was made to work hard for his 6-3 6-4 win over Jeremy Chardy, finally getting past the Frenchman by converting his fifth match point.
Stan Wawrinka was given a major scare by world number 38 Borna Coric, who bagged the first set 6-3 on centre court. The Swiss then dug deep, hitting 10 aces over the next two sets to clinch the match 3-6 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 in nearly two and a half hours.
Tommy Robredo booked a round-of-16 meeting with Tomas Berdych by beating Sam Querrey 6-1 5-7 6-3, while Richard Gasquet and Goffin enjoyed straight-sets wins against Thanasi Kokkinakis and Fernando Verdasco respectively.
Two more Americans exiting the event came in Jack Sock, who lost 6-3 7-6 (9/7) to Kevin Anderson, and Jared Donaldson, who went down to Jerzy Janowicz.
Elsewhere, Feliciano Lopez kept Andreas Seppi at arm’s length on his way to winning 7-6 (8/6) 6-2 following a lengthy rain delay.
In the women’s event, Serena Williams came through her first match of the tournament 7-5 6-3 against Tsetana Pironkova, having been given a bye into the second round, and the American pulled out all her big aces to get the job done.
World number three Simona Halep needed three sets to get her first win in three attempts against Kristina Mladenovic, going through 7-5 5-7 6-4.
Fourth seed Petra Kvitova is heading home after going down 7-5 4-6 6-2 to Carolina Garcia and Victoria Azarenka ended Caroline Wozniacki’s challenge with a 6-0 6-4 triumph.
Lucie Safarova, who was beaten by Coco Vandeweghe at this year’s Wimbledon, got her revenge in the form of a 6-4 7-5 win as Sloane Stephens rallied to eliminate qualifier Mona Barthel 3-6 7-6 (7/1) 6-2 and Elina Svitolina ensured Eugenie Bouchard bowed out as a 7-6 (8/6) 7-5 loser.
The other winners on Wednesday were Andrea Petkovic, Karolina Pliskova, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Jelena Jankovic, Belinda Bencic, Varvara Lepchenko, Karin Knapp and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.