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Williams rinses Sharapova while Federer survives surprise scare to progress

Despite contrasting first-round matches at the US Open, the two all-timers progressed.

Serena Williams celebrates a point against Maria Sharapova.
Serena Williams celebrates a point against Maria Sharapova.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

SERENA WILLIAMS BEGAN her quest for a 24th Grand Slam singles crown by crushing five-time major winner Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 Monday to reach the second round of the US Open.

Williams needed only 59 minutes to rout her Russian rival, improving to 20-2 all-time against Sharapova with her 19th consecutive victory in the rivalry.

“Whenever I play her I bring out some of my best tennis,” Williams said. “She’s such a good player. When you play her you have to be super focused.”

Williams, who next plays 121st-ranked US wildcard Caty McNally, blasted five aces and 16 winners while Sharapova made 20 unforced errors in the loss at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The 37-year-old American, seeking her seventh US Open title, is chasing the all-time record of 24 Slam singles titles won by Margaret Court.

imago-20190827 Serena Williams during her US Open match with Maria Sharapova. Source: Imago/PA Images

Sharapova, the 2006 US Open winner who defeated Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final, upset Simona Halep in the first round two years ago but could not revive that magic in the showcase opening-night match in the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.

Williams said that once she learned she would face Sharapova in her first match, “every practice after that was super focused and super intense.”

Eighth-seeded Williams broke for a 3-1 edge when Sharapova netted a backhand, again to 5-1 and took the first set in 24 minutes on a net cord winner.

Williams broke to open the second set then denied Sharapova on two break points to hold in the fifth game, an impressive backhand winner and a service winner ending the threat.

“That was definitely a big point for me,” Williams said. “You can’t let her get any momentum. I was really excited I hit that winner. It was a fun match.”

Williams broke again to 4-1, rescued three break points in the sixth game to hold serve and broke again to advance, showing no sign of the back spasms that limited her pre-Open play.

“The body is good,” she said. “My back is a lot better. I’m excited. This is going to be fun.”

It was the first match for Williams at Ashe since she unleashed her wrath at umpire Carlos Ramos in last year’s US Open final and he awarded a game penalty to eventual winner Naomi Osaka. Ramos will not officiate any Williams match at this year’s US Open.

“I’ve had a lot of tough matches and a lot of tough losses but coming out here tonight makes it all worthwhile,” Williams said in thanking the crowd, which included such celebrities as Spike Lee and Mike Tyson.

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tennis-us-open Roger Federer of Switzerland, left, and Sumit Nagal of India shake hands after their match in the first round on day one of the 2019 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Swiss third seed Roger Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam winner, survived a surprise scare in a 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-4 win against world number 190 Sumit Nagal.

Federer finished with 57 unforced errors and 61 winners as he won through in two hours and 29 minutes. He will hope for an improved display when he faces Damir Dzumhur in the next round.

Federer dropped the opening set in 36 minutes, then returned to form and defeated Nagal 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

“I played like my beard today. I was rusty,” he said.

The shock first set was a wake-up call, a 38-year-old legend who was 61-0 in Grand Slam first rounds since the 2003 French Open trailing a 22-year-old from New Delhi who is ranked 190th and fell to 0-5 in tour-level matches.

“Just tried to forget it, play tough, stay with him. It was a tough first set for me,” Federer said. “He came back and played really strong. I was missing a lot of balls and trying to cut back on unforced errors.

“It all came back just in time.”

© – AFP 2019

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