The novel coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the international tennis calendar this year. The Western and Southern Open is the latest event to be staged in an effort to get the tour going again. Serena Williams is off to a wobbly start while Andy Murray is showing off how much progress he has made in his recovery from a hip surgery in January 2019.

Former world number one Williams was clearly struggling with the New York heat as she fought her way to the third round of the event. She had to fight tooth and nail against Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus before eventually advancing 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 7-6 (7-0). The match took three hours to be completed as Rus fought relentlessly to try to stage an upset.

In the end, Williams prevailed but not in the manner that would have been expected. It remains to be seen if she will get her groove back for the rest of the tournament. The American will be facing 13th seed Maria Sakkari in the fourth round.

Meanwhile, Murray defeated Germany's Alexander Zverev to also make it to the third round. Murray took out the world number seven in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

It's a big victory for Murray, who is currently ranked 129th in the world. The former world number one fell down the ranks after suffering through a persistent hip injury which he needed to get surgery for in January 2019. In an emotional announcement at the Australian Open that year, Murray admitted that he may be looking at the end of his professional career. However, he has since bounced back gradually, and is expected to be one of the stars who are still left in the draw for the upcoming US Open.

The Western and Southern open is typically played in Cincinnati, USA. However, BBC reports that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event has been organised at Flushing Meadows in New York in order to create a safety bubble which will also cover the US Open.

The first Grand Slam to be staged since the pandemic is scheduled to begin on Aug. 31. Sadly, several players will be unable to participate due to logistical issues as well as health and safety concerns. Among those who pulled out are Nick Kyrgios, Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep and both defending champions Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu.

Serena Williams
American Serena Williams celebrates a point in a hard-fought second-round win over Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus at the Western & Southern Open in New York GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / MATTHEW STOCKMAN