Serena Williams trounced old foe Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-1 in their blockbuster first round clash at the US Open on Monday to get her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title off to a flying start.
Williams, in her first US Open match since her infamous row with the chair umpire overshadowed her loss in last year's final, used her trademark power to overwhelm Sharapova in the first New York meeting between two of the sport's biggest names.
Eighth seed Williams showed no signs of the back spasms that forced her to retire in tears from the Toronto final two weeks ago and instead showcased some of her best on-court movement since returning from maternity leave in 2018.
Williams, who last faced Sharapova at the 2016 Australian Open, improved to 20-2 in career meetings versus the Russian, who has fallen to 87th in the rankings amid an injury-hit 2019 season that included shoulder surgery in February.
Next up for Williams will be American wildcard Catherine McNally, who beat Swiss Timea Bacsinszky 6-4 6-1 earlier on Monday.
Williams speaks on court
Williams thanks her fans for the support and said it was "never easy" against Sharapova.
"It was a fun match," Williams says.
The American now says she will relax with her daughter as she prepares to face Caty McNally in the second round.
Williams says her back is much better and is feeling in good shape.
Williams 6-1 6-1 Sharapova (*denotes next to serve)
A double fault is not a good way for Sharapova to start this game. She's trying - and failing - stay in the match as the American takes a 0-30 lead. The Russian makes it 15-30 and goes for a huge backhand that falls just in - according to review. Still 15-30.
Williams just keeps getting it back, forcing Sharapova to hit wide. The American has two match points. And she only needs one, the Russian hitting a backhand too long once again.
Williams has swept Sharapova away in this match.
Williams 5-1 6-1 Sharapova* (*denotes next to serve)
A great rally ends with Sharapova smacking down a cracking backhand into the corner. Williams quickly levels with a strong serve but then sees her forehand go long. 15-30.
Williams is under pressure on the serve - but responds with an ace. At 30-30, Williams overhits a backhand and Sharapova has a chance to break for the first time. Oh dear. Sharapova goes for a winner with the backhand, but goes well wide. Deuce.
But another superb return from Sharapova hands the Russian another chance to break. But Williams is having none of it, making it deuce with another strong serve. The Russian wins a review on a serve and gets a chance to break. Can she take it? No. Williams hits to her backhand and Sharapova can only find the net. Again she hits a return into the net, and Williams has the chance to hold. Another big serve wraps up the game.
Williams* 4-1 6-1 Sharapova (*denotes next to serve)
Williams hammers back a cracking return on the first serve. And then Sharapova hits long once again, making it 0-30. The Russian claws back a point but Williams is on top, powering back a backhand that Sharapova can't return.
Williams has two break points - and only needs one. A forehand lands just in while Sharapova's effort goes long. Williams secures another break.
Williams 3-1 6-1 Sharapova* (*denotes next to serve)
Can Williams buold on her lead? Sharpova digging deep to try to prolong this match. Williams hits a backhand just wide after a good rally, but then Sharapova overcooks a backhand to make it 15-15. Again the Russian battles to stay in the game - she returns well and Williams hits wide. Then the American hits a wild forehand and Sharapova has two break points.
Williams saves one, then salvages the next with a wonderful passing backhand shot. Unlucky for Sharapova, who had just returned brilliantly. Deuce.
A great angled forehand flies into the corner from Williams to take the advantage. And then Sharapova hits a little long to hand Williams the game.
Williams* 2-1 6-1 Sharapova (*denotes next to serve)
That's much better from Sharapova. A good rally ends with the Russian smacking back a terrific backhand past Williams. She then makes it 30-0 - but then can only double fault.
This time it's Williams who overhits and Sharapova has a chance to get an important hold. She takes it and that's an important one to win to keep a foothold in this match.
Williams 2-0 6-1 Sharapova* (*denotes next to serve)
Williams drops the first point as she hits a soft backhand into the net. But then Sharapova tries to gently lift a backhand over the net - but it fails to get over it. 15-15.
Sharapova tries for a winner, but again overhits. Williams then fires down a strong serve before holding the game with her next serve.
Williams* 1-0 6-1 Sharapova (*denotes next to serve)
A great rally starts off the second start but it's mostly Sharapova doing the running. Williams again comes out on top before a double fault makes it 0-30. Could Williams break so early?
Sharapova hits the net and Williams has three break points. Sharapova saves one - the first point she has won in 10 - but then Williams hammers back a return that Sharapova can't return. An easy break again for Williams.
Williams 6-1 Sharapova* (*denotes next to serve)
Ooph so close. Williams is getting the rub of the green here. A strong forehand lands on the line before she fires down an ace - Sharapova loses the appeal.
At 30-0, Sharapova goes for a big forehand - but sees it go a little long. And Williams sees a dink hit the top of the net - and land the other side. Another bit of luck - not that she needs it - wraps up an easy hold. The American takes the first set comfortably. How will Sharapova respond?
Williams* 5-1 Sharapova (*denotes next to serve)
Williams is making Sharapova run a fair bit and takes the lead as she forces the Russian into a mistake. A strong ace levels the game. 15-15.
But the Russian angles a forehand just out and is again under pressure on her serve. Williams again powers back a forehand and Sharapova can only hit long. Break point. And a backhand from Sharapova hits the net, ensuring a second break for Williams.
Williams 4-1 Sharapova* (*denotes next to serve)
A great backhand from Sharapova lands just in - but the next forehand is a little wild. 15-15. The Russian can't quite reach a backhand to get it over the net and then Williams dominates the next exchange, finishing off with a powerful forehand that flies past Sharapova. A strong serve from Williams wraps up the game.
Williams* 3-1 Sharapova (*denotes next to serve)
Sharapova loses out in a rally to kick off the next game but Williams then hits long to make it 15-15. The American again hits long as Sharapova edges in front. But the American thwacks back a strong return and Sharapova fails to return. 30-30.
Ooph. Sharapova mishits hits from the baseline and Williams has a chance to break. And she takes it, as Sharapova can only find the net. First break of the match.
Williams 2-1 Sharapova* (*denotes next to serve)
Sharapova has started well and gets the first point in the next game. But boom - another ace from Williams. The American makes it 30-15 before sending down another strong serve to make it 40-15. But a double fault makes it 40-30 before Sharapova smacks back a perfect return to make it deuce.
Sharapova does well to return again but after a great rally, Williams comes out on top. And a good serve wraps up the game.
So far, pretty even.
Williams* 1-1 Sharapova (*denotes next to serve)
Williams levels it to make it 15-15 as she wins a lengthy rally, hitting a forehand that a stretching Sharapova can't quite bat back. After trading points again, Williams goes a little long with her forehand and Sharapova has a chance to win the game. Another strong serve for the Russian wraps it up.
Williams 1-0 Sharapova* (*denotes next to serve)
That's a good way to start for Williams, smacking down an ace with her first serve. Sharapova levels it, but then hits long.
At 30-15, Williams fires down another ace before hammering down a forehand to take the game. Good start for the American.
Williams 0-0 Sharapova* (*denotes next to serve)
And here we go.
Here come the players
That's the ceremonial formalities out of the way, here come the players.
The ceremony is under way, so players should be out in a few more minutes time.
Williams and Ramos won't meet again
One thing is for sure, there will be no court reunion between Williams and umpire Ramos at the US Open this year.
US Open officials said on Friday that Serena Williams had not made a formal request for chair umpire Carlos Ramos to be kept away from her matches over the coming fortnight. Yet they have still decided to separate the two for the benefit of the tournament, writes Simon Briggs.
Last year's final turned into what a recent ESPN documentary described as "the ugliest finish in grand-slam history" after Ramos issued Williams with three code violations, prompting the partisan New York crowd to boo the victorious Naomi Osaka when she stepped up to the presentation dais.
During the match, Williams wagged her finger at Ramos during one of the changeovers and said: "You will never, ever, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live."
But Williams has not repeated this instruction since, according to Stacey Allaster - the United States Tennis Association's chief executive for professional tennis. When the subject was raised on Friday, Allaster said: "No, the request has not come in. This is our collective decision. We want to focus on the competition."
Read the full story.
Coming up soon...
In about 15 minutes time, after the opening ceremony.
Williams' US Open fury so familiar to many black sportswomen
Ebony Rainford-Brent takes a look at the fallout from last year's US Open final and Serena Williams' argument with the umpire Carlos Ramos.
As we build up to another US Open, media headlines will no doubt reignite the conversation around Serena's actions. There will, of course, be many people who watched the match and didn't see any issues around race and gender. In their eyes Serena was in the wrong, and was punished accordingly.
As a black person I don't see it that way. When I was younger, the only black cricketer on the England team, I used to shrink myself to fit into the role. It was a conscious effort that many black people will recognise, toning yourself down to be accepted - selected - in a predominantly white environment.
Read the full story.
Williams returns to scene of most memorable triumphs... and greatest controversy
On Friday, the major players filed into Louis Armstrong Stadium to answer questions from the assembled media, writes Simon Briggs.
Roger Federer led the sequence, with Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka all taking their turns.
But where was the woman who is synonymous with this tournament? Where was six-time champion Serena Williams - the only American to land multiple majors in the last decade? Not on the list.
The omission was particularly glaring when you consider Williams will be involved in the most compelling first-round match by far - a meeting with Maria Sharapova which could easily prove to be the last iteration of this one-sided but heartfelt rivalry. At the same time, though, you can understand why she preferred to skip the press interrogation. She knew that she would be asked about last year's US Open final.
Read the full article.
Coming up tomorrow
Here's what to look out for on Tuesday.
What a blockbuster first round tie we have coming up. Simon Briggs takes a look at what we have in store for us.
As if Serena Williams's return to the US Open did not feel intriguing enough, after the unpleasant scenes that disfigured last year's trophy presentation to Naomi Osaka, the draw has added another layer of fascination by pitting her against her old foe Maria Sharapova in the first round.
These two giants of the game have not contested a match since the Australian Open quarter-final of 2016, where Williams extended her unbeaten streak in their one-sided rivalry to 18 matches and 12 years. That was also the match after which Sharapova gave the urine sample that resulted in her Meldonium suspension.
Williams and Sharapova were supposed to meet at the French Open last year but Williams pulled out citing a pectoral injury. So, a lot has happened since that day on Rod Laver Arena in 2016, when Williams was largely untroubled in driving home a 6-4, 6-1 victory.
Read the full article.