The last time we saw Serena Williams at the US Open was during her infamous meltdown during a loss in the final to Naomi Osaka last year.
She returned to Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday to find a familiar nemesis in Maria Sharapova in a star-studded match to start US Open play.
The circumstances were unfamiliar for a matchup that usually takes place in later rounds of grand slam events. But the result was not, as Williams cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 win over Sharapova.
Williams continues dominance against Sharapova
With the win, Williams improves to 20-2 all time against Sharapova and 8-1 in grand slam play, with Sharapova’s only grand slam victory in the rivalry coming in the 2004 Wimbledon final.
“She’s such a good player,” Williams told ESPN of Sharapova after the 59-minute victory. “When you play her, you have to be super focused. So every time I come up against her, I just bring out some of my best tennis.”
Sharapova not in top form in return from suspension
The high-profile draw was courtesy of Sharapova’s doping ban for testing positive for Meldonium levied in 2016.
The 32-year-old has failed to find the form that saw her win five grand slams since her return, and was ranked 87th in the world heading into the US Open, leading to a random pairing with No. 8 seed Williams.
Sharapova was active early, finding answers for some of Williams’ blistering serves, while holding serve on her first chance. But Williams quickly asserted her dominance, breaking Sharapova on her second chance to take a 3-1 lead.
Sharapova would not win another game in the opening set as Williams’ serve proved too dominant, leading to quick points and game winners.
Williams stifles Sharapova’s best chance
Williams broke Sharapova in the opening game of the second set to affirm that the opening set was no fluke. Sharapova held serve to win the third game of the set to ensure that Williams wouldn’t sweep the rest of the match.
She then threatened to break Williams trailing 2-1 in the second set. But Willams battled back from down 40-15 to win the game and shut down Sharapova’s best chance of getting back into the match.
The loss is Sharapova’s first in the opening round at the US Open in 13 appearances. Williams advances to face American Catherine McNally in the second round on Wednesday.
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