Serena Williams made a statement at her return to the US Open on Monday night, by crushing her long-time rival, Maria Sharapova.
The 37-year-old won 6-1 6-1 in a first-round meeting, which lasted only 59 minutes.
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Serena had lost the final of the competition in controversial manner to Naomi Osaka a year ago, which left her in tears while addressing the crowd after the game at Floushing Meadows.
But her mood was different as she beat the 32-year-old Russian for the 19th time in a row.
The American eight seed, who is looking to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title and a first since returning from giving birth two years ago, broke Sharapova’s serve five times, easing into the second-round to meet fellow country woman, Catherine McNally.
When asked about the decision not to allow Portuguese umpire, Carlos Ramos, to officiate her matches in New York following the incident last year, Williams said: “I do not know who that is.”
The pairing of the two Grand Slam winners had been the talking points of the first round, with Osaka and Roger Federer saying they would watch the match.
The arena was packed with 24, 000 fans, with former world heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson and Hollywood actor, Alec Baldwin, among the crowd.
Williams and Sharapova have had a frosty relationship since they first met on court in 2003, although Serena said last year that she does not have any “negative feelings” towards the Russian.
In the encounter, Serena outplayed her opponent and wrapped up the first set in just 25 minutes.
Sharapova was broken in the first game of the second set, before increasing the intensity of her groundstrokes to force two break points in the fourth.
But her poor return and powerful winner allowed the home favourite to recover. Sharapova’s inability to break back again sealed her fate.
Williams took her serve in the next game with scores at 4-1, and after winning three more break points, she sealed victory when Sharapova hit a backhand long, as she ended the match without winning a single point on her second serve.
“That winner at 3-1 in the second set 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,” Williams added.
“Obviously, I’m 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.
“Whenever I come up against her I play my best tennis.”