Serena Williams easily dispatches old foe Maria Sharapova in U.S. Open
Playing her first match at the U.S. Open since last year’s loss in a chaotic, controversial final, Serena Williams played nearly perfect tennis and beat Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 in a contest devoid of drama Monday night.
Williams stretched her winning streak to 19 matches against Sharapova and now leads their head-to-head series 20-2.
“Every time I come up against her,” Williams said, “I just bring out some of my best tennis.”
Sure did this time; the whole thing lasted all of 59 minutes. Williams won twice as many points, 56-28. She saved all five break points she faced and lashed serves at up to 115 mph. She broke five times.
Few players would have stood a chance against Williams the way she performed — and certainly not a diminished Sharapova, who is ranked just 87th after missing much of this season with a bad right shoulder.
“She would win the title, playing like this,” 18-time major champion Chris Evert said about Williams on ESPN’s telecast.
WATCH | Serena Williams dominates Maria Sharapova:
Williams beat Sharapova in straight sets for her 19th-straight win over the Russian. 1:16
Williams arrived at Flushing Meadows, where she’s won six titles, accompanied by questions about her back, because spasms that flared up earlier this month forced her to stop playing during the final of one hard-court tuneup tournament and pull out of another one entirely.
Didn’t seem to be an issue against Sharapova.
Not one bit.
“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.”
A year ago, she was beaten by Naomi Osaka in straight sets in a U.S. Open title match that devolved after a back-and-forth between Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos. He warned her for receiving coaching signals, which isn’t allowed in Grand Slam play; when she later broke a racket, he docked her a point; when she argued with him and called him a “thief” and a “liar,” he docked her a game. The U.S. Tennis Association decided that Ramos would not officiate any match involving Serena Williams or her older sister, Venus, at this year’s tournament.
Williams was calm and cool as can be against Sharapova, only rarely showing the slightest hint of emotion with a cry of “Come on!” or by raising a clenched left fist after the shot of the night, a backhand passing winner that saved a break point early in the second set.
“That was definitely a big point for me,” Williams said. “She’s the kind of player that gets momentum and she starts going. I was really excited that I hit that winner.”
Eugenie Bouchard makes quick exit
Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard is out of the U.S. Open after a first-round loss to 12th-seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia on Monday.
Sevastova converted five of her nine break point chances against Bouchard as she cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 win in a match that lasted one hour 14 minutes. The Latvian also had three aces and committed just 16 unforced errors, compared to 27 for Bouchard.
Bouchard converted both of her break point opportunities but struggled on service. She landed only 57 per cent of her first serves, and then scored on just 58 per cent of those that were good. Second serve was even more problematic for Bouchard, who won on just nine of 23 opportunities (39 per cent).
Bouchard, once ranked fifth on the WTA Tour, entered the U.S. Open ranked 119th and has a record of 6-15 this season. She hasn’t won since a first-round victory over Vera Lapko at a Premier 5 tournament in Dubai in February and has dropped 12 straight matches since.
WATCH | Genie Bouchard bounced from U.S. Open:
Anastasija Sevastova handed Canadian Eugenie Bouchard her 12th-straight loss at the U.S. Open on Monday. 1:12
Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., was scheduled to play Chile’s Nicolas Jarry in men’s first-round action on Monday, but the hard-serving Canadian withdrew on Sunday with an injured glute muscle. Raonic was replaced by Kamil Majchrzak of Poland.
Fifteenth-seed Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., the last Canadian women left in the singles draw, will face American qualifier Karie Volynets on a busy Tuesday for Canadians. In men’s action, 18th-seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal will start his U.S. Open against Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill,Ont., for a second straight year.
French Open champion Ash Barty survived a first-round scare, staving off 25-year-old Zarina Diyas 1-6 6-3 6-2 after struggling to find her footing as the action kicked off at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The 80th-ranked Diyas, from Kazakhstan, took five straight games in the first set, as the world No.2 committed 36 unforced errors and got in just 25 per cent of her first serves.
The Australian lost the first set in a mere 28 minutes and did not begin to come alive until the match was knotted at 3-3 in the second. She converted on a crucial break-point opportunity to take a 5-3 lead and went on to win nine of the last 11 games, ending the match when Diyas sailed a forehand long.
“I was happy with the way I was able to fight through after a pretty awful start,” Barty said. “Not the ideal start. Not the perfect start. But it is what it is.”
WATCH | Ash Barty outlast Zarina Diyas:
After dropping the opening set, No. 2 seed Ash Barty rallies to beat Zarina Diyas 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. 0:35
Barty’s match helped kick off an opening day slate that included eight former U.S. Open champions, including top-ranked defending champion Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. The main event was the opening night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, when Serena Williams was set to take on Maria Sharapova at the U.S. Open for the first time. Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, Sharapova five.
Third-seeded Karolina Pliskova also struggled in her opener, overcoming 32 unforced errors to win her first-round match over Czech qualifier Tereza Martincova 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3).
And Kristina Mladenovic of France defeated No. 14 seed and 2016 U.S. Open champion Angelique Kerber 7-5, 0-6, 6-4. Kerber’s first-round loss follows second-round exits at both the French and Wimbledon this year.
Top-seed Djokovic opens with easy win:
Top-seeded Novak Djokovic felt good enough after his workmanlike first-round victory at the U.S. Open to do a little dancing.
Djokovic, who is now 34-1 in his last 35 Grand Slam matches, dispatched Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.
WATCH | Top-ranked Novak Djokovic advances to Round 2:
He then gave an on-court interview in which he acknowledged dancing in Central Park as part of his pre-match preparation. Djokovic promptly went to his bag and pulled out two rackets that he used as faux maracas while he showed off his Latin dance moves to the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.
Seventh-seeded Kei Nishikori became the first player to advance when qualifier Marco Trungelliti had to retire with the 2014 U.S. Open runner-up leading 6-1, 4-1. Trungelliti, an Argentine playing in his first Grand Slam main-draw match since the 2018 French Open, suffered a rib and abdomen injury in the second set and got treatment on the sideline before calling it quits.
Another notable result came when 18-year-old American qualifier Jenson Brooksby downed perennial top-10 player Tomas Berdych 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.