For all the tennis history Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have written — from Grand Slams and greatness to meltdowns and melodrama — they had never once played each other at the U.S. Open.

Monday’s first was no contest.

The eighth-seeded Williams thrashed Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 in Monday night’s first-round match under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Obviously I’m going against a player that’s won five Grand Slams and been in the final of even more, so its never easy,” said Williams in an oncourt TV interview following the match. “Every practice after that [draw] was super-intense and super-focused because it’s a really tough draw.

“She’s such a good player, when you play her you have to be super-focused. Every time I play her, I bring out some of my best tennis.”

She certainly did Monday. In their first meeting in three years, Williams improved to 20-2 against Sharapova, including the last 19 straight dating all the way back to 2004. But few have been quite as comprehensive or complete as this.

Over the years, Williams has taken great joy in beating Sharapova, even when the latter was at her best. But at just 87th in the latest world ranking with her ailing shoulder — one that has required surgery, and has some around her urging retirement — the Russian is nowhere near her best.

But Williams was.

In her first match at Ashe since her infamous implosion during last year’s final against Naomi Osaka, Williams was indeed serene. Composed. A well-oiled tennis machine. There were no beefs with chair umpires, no fist-pumps to get herself pumped. There was just brilliance.

Sharapova suffered only her second loss in 25 night matches at the U.S. Open, and her first ever in the first round in Flushing.

Meanwhile, Williams is still one shy of a record-tying Grand Slam title, not having won one since giving birth two years ago. But she showed her best movement and mobility since becoming a mother.

She was rarely challenged throughout.

Sharapova did go up 40-15 on Williams’ serve with a chance to break. But after she buried a forehand return at break point, Williams flicked a passing shot down the line to save a second straight break point. She roared in celebration and when she hit another shot down the line for advantage, Sharapova’s return long for a hold.

Williams went up 3-1 in the second set and rolled. She’s now won 18 straight sets against Sharapova, and 31 of 32.

“Yeah that was definitely a big point for me. She’s the type of player that gets momentum and gets going. I was super excited that I got that winner,” said Williams, whose sore back that forced her to retire from her last match in the Rogers Cup final has clearly improved.

“Body’s good. I feel good. My back’s a lot better. I’m excited. This is going I be fun. … I’ve has a lot of tough matches here and a lot of tough losses but coming out here makes it all worthwhile.”

Source: New york post


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