Serena Williams trounced old foe Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-1 in their blockbuster first round clash at the US Open on Monday to get her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title off to a flying start.
Williams, in her first US Open match since her infamous row with the chair umpire overshadowed her loss in last year’s final, used her trademark power to overwhelm Sharapova in the first New York meeting between two of the sport’s biggest names.
Eighth seed Williams showed no signs of the back spasms that forced her to retire in tears from the Toronto final two weeks ago and instead showcased some of her best on-court movement since returning from maternity leave in 2018.
She now leads her head-to-head series with Sharapova 20-2.
“Every time I come up against her,” Williams said, “I just bring out some of my best tennis.”
This match lasted just 59 minutes as Williams won twice as many points, 56-28. She saved all five break points she faced and broke Sharapova five times.
“I always said her ball somehow lands in my strike zone,” Williams said. “I don’t know. It’s just perfect for me.”
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 27, 2019
Few players would have stood a chance against Williams as she began her bid for a record-tying 24th grand slam title by dispatching the now world No.87 Sharapova in their first meeting at the year’s final major.
“You don’t understand how much this means to me,” Williams said in her on-court interview.
“I am going against a player who’s won five grand slams. She is such a good player, you have to be super focused. It was a fun match.”
Williams arrived at the US Open, where she’s won six titles, accompanied by questions about her back but that didn’t seem to be an issue on Monday night.
“The body’s good. I feel good,” Williams said.
“My back’s a lot better. So I’m excited. This is going to be fun.”
Next up for Williams will be American wildcard Catherine McNally, who beat Swiss Timea Bacsinszky 6-4 6-1.
Joining Serena in the next round is 39-year-old older sister Venus, who beat Saisai Zheng 6-1 6-0 to remain undefeated in first-round matches in a record-tying 21st appearance at her home grand slam.
Meanwhile former US Open champion Angelique Kerber crashed out, losing 7-5 0-6 6-4 to Kristina Mladenovic.
Three-time grand slam champion and former world No.1 Kerber is having a poor year. Kerber – who has no coach – reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January but then crashed out in the first round at the French Open and second round at Wimbledon.
The latest disaster came after first-round defeats in Toronto and Cincinnati.
Another to tumble was No.27 seed Caroline Garcia, who bowed out with a 7-6 (10-8) 6-2 loss to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.
Women’s third seed and former finalist Karolina Pliskova dropped her first three service games and blew a double break 3-0 lead in the second before prevailing 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-3) in a tight first-round duel against 138th-ranked fellow Czech Tereza Martincova.
Eugenie Bouchard, a former Wimbledon finalist and top-10 player, lost her 11th straight tour match to last year’s semi-finalist Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-3.
Earlier, Ashleigh Barty survived a scare to safely progress to the second round.
The world No.2 had to pull out all the stops before battling past dogged Kazakh Zarina Diyas 1-6 6-3 6-2.
Barty used her trusty trademark serve to drag herself out of a big hole and set up a date on Wednesday with either unseeded American Lauren Davis or Swedish qualifier Johanna Larsson.
Elsewhere, Australia’s Alex de Minaur moved into the second round with victory over Pierre-Hugues Herber before outlining his ambitions for the future.
De Minaur was made to sweat for more than three hours against Herbert, the Frenchman who Nick Kyrgios beat last year at Flushing Meadows after receiving a controversial mid-match pep talk from chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani.
“It’s never an easy match-up against Pierre so very happy with how things went,” De Minaur said.
His next match, on Wednesday, is against Chilean 31st seed Christan Garin, who needed five sets to get past American wildcard Chris Eubanks.
“He’s another quality opponent, very tough, very solid,” De Minaur said of Garin.
“I’m happy to get through my first round and it’s going to be another incredibly tough match.”