Serena Williams on Monday overwhelmed Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 to reach the second round of the US Open in search of her 24th Grand Slam title, while “rusty” Roger Federer rallied past Indian qualifier Sumit Nagal.
Six-time US Open champion Williams crushed the five-time major winner from Russia in only 59 minutes, beating Sharapova for the 19th consecutive time and improving to 20-2 in their all-time rivalry.
“Whenever I play her I bring out some of my best tennis,” Williams said. “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.
“She served really well. Found her spots really well,” Sharapova said. “I think that’s where she hurt me a lot.”
Williams is hoping to match the all-time record of 24 Slam singles titles won by Margaret Court.
Swiss third seed Federer, who has a men’s record 20 Slam titles, 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,” Federer said.
The shock first set was a wake-up call to the 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.”
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.
The American said that after learning she would face Sharapova, “every practice after that was super focused and super intense.”
Eighth seed Williams rolled through the first set in 24 minutes, then broke to open the second. She denied Sharapova on two break points to hold in the fifth game, an impressive backhand winner ending the threat.
“That was definitely a big point for me,” Williams said. “You can’t let her get any momentum.”
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.”
Top-ranked defending champion Novak Djokovic cruised into the second round, while French Open champion Ashleigh Barty and third seed Karolina Pliskova struggled, but advanced.
Serbian star Djokovic, who has won four of the past five Grand Slam singles titles, dispatched Spain’s 76th-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.
Djokovic, trying to become the first back-to-back US Open winner since Federer won from 2004 to 2008, is next to face Argentina’s 56th-ranked Juan Ignacio Londero.
Australian second seed Barty overcame a horrible start to oust 80th-ranked Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Barty made 19 unforced errors to drop the first set in 28 minutes, but took nine of the last 11 games to book a date with American Lauren Davis.
Pliskova edged Czech compatriot Tereza Martincova 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/3) after exchanging service breaks over the first six games.
“Not my best performance,” Pliskova said. “Not happy that I lost three breaks of serve in a row.”
Russian fifth seed Daniil Medvedev beat India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in 85 minutes. He next faces Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien.
“I can’t say I’m feeling amazing about my game, but to win by that score in the first round is great,” Medvedev said.
Japanese seventh seed Kei Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up, won 6-1, 4-1, when Argentine qualifier Marco Trungelliti retired with a back injury.
“I’m happy with the way I played,” said Nishikori, who gets American Bradley Klahn next.
Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei made it through the first round with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 win over Slovakian Jana Cepelova.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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