NEW YORK — Serena Williams‘ first match against Maria Sharapova at the U.S. Open had the same result as their last 18 meetings around the globe. A Williams victory, further cementing that it is a rivalry in every sense except the win-loss record.
Williams cruised 6-1, 6-1 in the highest-profile first-round match of her career. It marked her most lopsided win over Sharapova since the 2012 Olympic final.
“Every time I come up against her, I just bring out some of my best tennis,” Williams said, later noting that she didn’t know she had a 19-match win streak over Sharapova. “Every practice after [learning she would play Sharapova on Thursday] was super intense and super focused because it’s an incredibly tough draw.”
She was dialed in from the start Monday night, beginning her march to what she hopes is a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title and first as a mom. Williams won nearly twice as many points as Sharapova, who had 20 unforced errors and just six winners.
“If [Williams] can play seven matches like this, the U.S. Open is hers,” Chris Evert said on ESPN2.
Williams was runner-up at three of her six Slams since returning last year from life-threatening childbirth. Most memorably, she dropped the last U.S. Open final to Naomi Osaka, overshadowed by her spat with chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
It was revealed last week that Ramos would not be working any of Williams’ matches at the U.S. Open.
“I don’t know who that is,” she said when asked about that Ramos measure Monday night.
The eighth seed Williams next gets 17-year-old American wild card Caty McNally in the second round Wednesday. Williams, 37, hasn’t finished a non-major tournament this season, retiring and withdrawing from the last two with a back injury.
It’s been 15 years since Sharapova only wins against Williams, both in the Wimbledon final and at the year-end championships. Williams vowed to put the hammer down in their rivalry and has won 18 straight sets against the Russian since 2013. This marked their first meeting since 2016.
“Her game matches up really well against mine,” Williams said. “Her ball somehow lands in my strike zone. It’s just perfect for me.”
The frostiness between the two icons has been well-documented. They’ve taken jabs at each other’s personal lives. Sharapova, in her 2017 book, wrote about Williams’ private sobbing in the locker room after that 2004 Wimbledon final. Williams called what she read 100 percent hearsay.
This may well have been their last meeting, particularly due to the 32-year-old Sharapova’s recent setbacks. She is 2-5 since February shoulder surgery and will drop out of the top 100 after the U.S. Open.
“Bottom line is, I believe in my ability,” Sharapova said when asked her motivation at this point in her career. “You can write me off. There are many people that can write me off, especially after going down 6-1, 6-1 in the first round of the U.S. Open. As long as it’s not the person that’s inside of you, you’ll be OK.
“I really want to play as much as I can till the end of the year.”
Every top-10 seed in action advanced Monday, led by top-ranked defending champion Novak Djokovic. The Serb swept Spaniard Roberto Carballés Baena 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.
Djokovic, winner of four of the last five majors, saw his early draw open up when 2017 U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson withdrew with a right knee injury. Then potential second-round opponent Sam Querrey was upset Monday. Querrey memorably ousted Djokovic at 2016 Wimbledon. Red-hot Russian Daniil Medvedev is the only other top-16 seed left in Djokovic’s quarter of the draw.
Roger Federer, a possible semifinal opponent for Djokovic, dropped the first set to 190th-ranked Indian Sumit Nagal but overcame the rustiness to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
Venus Williams matched Martina Navratilova‘s record 21 U.S. Open main-draw appearances in the Open Era. The 39-year-old swept Chinese Zheng Saisai 6-1, 6-0 to avoid losing in the first round of a third straight major for the first time in her career. Venus’ second round should be much closer against No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina.
Tuesday’s featured matches include top-ranked Osaka against Russian Anna Blinkova at 12 p.m. ET. No. 2 Rafael Nadal gets Aussie John Millman at 7 p.m. Sloane Stephens, Simona Halep and 15-year-old Coco Gauff also play their first-round matches.
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