NEW YORK — Serena Williams overpowered Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 in a first-round matchup between two of tennis’ biggest stars at the 2019 US Open. Williams, who is seeking her 24th Grand Slam title, advances to the second round, where she will face 17-year-old wild-card entry Caty McNally, a fellow American.
Williams’ victory over Sharapova took just 59 minutes, and it’s her 19th consecutive win against Sharapova dating to 2005. During that span, Sharapova has won a total of only three sets.
In her first US Open match since the controversial 2018 championship match against Naomi Osaka, Williams played arguably her best match of the year. Williams, 37, hit a total of 16 winners to Sharapova’s six. After withdrawing from the Western & Southern Open earlier this month because of back spasms, Williams moved on the court with ease and was able to up the aggressiveness on her shots when Sharapova threatened.
“Yeah, my back feels good,” Williams said after her win. “I think I was able to zone in, especially down break points, not letting [Sharapova] in the match because she’s the kind of player that keeps going. Even towards the end, she just wants to keep fighting.”
Sharapova, 32, has missed most of the 2019 season with injuries, most notably a right shoulder injury that necessitated a surgical procedure back in February. Sharapova’s serve, which once was regarded as one of the best on the women’s tour, has been negatively impacted by her shoulder issues. Sharapova finished the match without winning a point on her second serve (0 for 10).
In the second set, with Williams serving at 2-1, Sharapova earned her first break points of the match at 15-40. Sharapova hit some of her best shots of the match during this time but she wasn’t able to break Williams, who saved both points and won the next point with a forehand winner. In hindsight, that might have been Sharapova’s only chance during the match to pull even with Williams. In the loss, Sharapova didn’t capitalize on any of her five break points, while Williams saved five of her six.
In 2016, Sharapova served a 15-month suspension after testing positive for the banned drug Meldonium. Since the suspension, Sharapova hasn’t re-entered the top-20 rankings. Entering Monday, Sharapova was ranked 87th, and now after the loss, she will fall out of the top 100.
“It’s not an easy road,” Sharapova said after the loss. “It’s easy to be discouraged after a match like this. But if I’m personally discouraged, I wake up tomorrow, I don’t feel like I want to go out, train, be better, that’s more discouraging than the result.”
Monday was the first time Williams and Sharapova have faced each other at the US Open. They’ve played each other at each of the other three Grand Slams: Wimbledon, French Open and the Australian Open. In their career head-to-head matchups, Williams holds a commanding 20-3 advantage, with Sharapova’s last win coming in 2004.