August 27, 2019
Serena Williams didn’t allow her recent back problems to stop her from doing what she loves best on a tennis court – soundly beating Maria Sharapova. At least that is what Serena appears to enjoy most – apart from winning Grand Slams, of course. You don’t win nineteen times in a row against a quality player without relishing your task. Serena didn’t let her first opportunity to beat Sharapova at the US Open pass her by. But the match itself seemed to flash by. Williams raced to a 6-1, 6-1 victory inside an hour.
In Sharapova’s defence, we should remember that the Russian has been troubled by shoulder problems these past few years. She hasn’t often recaptured her very best form. However, the result against Williams has always been the same. Ever since Serena began avenging her loss to Sharapova in 2004 Wimbledon final and another similar reverse that same year. There was only one real glimmer of hope for Sharapova at Flushing Meadows. It came in the second set when she fought hard to try to achieve parity at 2-2. But Serena’s spirit and serve were not about to be broken. She came up with a delicious winner to reinforce the stranglehold.
Later Williams reflected: ‘That winner at 3-1 in the second was a big point for me. She’s the type of player who can get momentum so I was really excited I could get the winner.’
For Maria Sharapova against Serena Williams, momentum is something she can only dream about. Serena admitted: ‘Whenever I come up against her I play my best tennis.’
And the thought of losing in the very first round to a woman she hasn’t always shown the greatest affection for in the past was too much for Williams to bear. All recent doubts and niggles were dispelled. The ruthlessness returned. The movement looked promising.
Serena explained: ‘Obviously I was going against a player who has won five Grand Slams and reached the final of even more so I knew it would be tough.’
‘I was super-intense and super-focused because it was an incredibly tough draw.’
Now Williams must be regarded as a serious contender for the title once more. And one player Serena no longer has to worry about at this US Open is Angelique Kerber, her rival in two relatively recent Wimbledon finals.
France’s Kristina Mladenovic overcame bagel indignity to defeat the German 7-5, 0-6, 6-4.
Roger Federer could have done with some of Serena’s intensity and focus right from the start in his opener against Sumit Nagal. Perhaps in the back of Federer’s mind was the notion that his own draw looked far from tough. The underdog from India is ranked only 190 in the world, after all. But if he thought he was going to have an easy night, Federer soon realised otherwise when Nagal took the first set 6-4. Roger soon woke up and took control, winning the next three sets 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 to progress with belated comfort.