New York: Maria Sharapova slipped back into an all-too-familiar routine on Monday as the Russian came up short for the 20th time in 22 matches against Serena Williams to exit the US Open in the first round.
A stone-faced Sharapova was left to ponder a 6-1 6-1 drubbing that proved once again Williams has all the answers when the pair meet on court.
“I thought she served really well. Found her spots really well. Didn’t feel like we got into too many long rallies,” said Sharapova. “I think the 1-2 punch. She won a majority of those points.”
Prior to Monday match, Williams led Sharapova 19-2 in head-to-head meetings. They last met in the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals where the American emerged with a 6-4 6-1 win.
They were due to meet at last year’s French Open but Williams withdrew due to injury.
Sharapova has not taken a set off Williams since the Miami Open in 2013.
The 32-year-old Russian, who was banned for 15 months for taking the banned drug meldonium in 2016, struggled with injuries earlier this year, including persistent shoulder problems that have plagued her in the past.
The five times Grand Slam champion underwent a small surgical procedure for her right shoulder that caused her to miss the Miami Open.
“I missed a lot of this year with my shoulder. Just getting the routines back and being back in the draws is, you know, it’s tough to talk about after a defeat, but it’s a long road,” Sharapova said.
“It’s facing an opponent that’s at her stature is extremely difficult in the first round of a slam, coming in with the fact that I haven’t played that much.” There is no love lost between the two, with Sharapova including Williams in her autobiography in anecdotes that the American described as “hearsay.” “Sport is very much result-oriented. There’s stories behind the results,” said Sharapova. “There’s phases you have to get through in order to get to where you want to go.
“This is a very different chapter in my career. It’s not an easy road. It’s never been.”
Williams next faces fellow American Catherine McNally, after the wildcard beat Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky 6-4 6-1.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic began his title-defence in style with a 6-4 6-1 6-4 win over Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena in first-round action.
The top-seeded Serbian, who has claimed four of the last five Grand Slam titles, took some time to settle in to his first career meeting with Carballes Baena but after a tight first set was off to the races.
Djokovic got an early break to go ahead 2-0 in the second set and never looked back as the three-times champion used a mix of deft volleys, solid movement and great instincts to secure the win.
Up next for Djokovic will be either American Sam Querrey or Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero.
Selected results (x denotes seeding)
Men, 1st rd
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) 6-4, 6-1, 6-4
Denis Kudla (USA) bt Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1
Stan Wawrinka (SUI x23) bt Jannik Sinner (ITA) 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-3
Reilly Opelka (USA) bt Fabio Fognini (ITA x11) 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) bt Taylor Fritz (USA x26) 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4
Daniil Medvedev (RUS x5) bt Prajnesh Gunneswaran (IND) 6-4, 6-1, 6-2
Roger Federer (SUI x3) bt Sumit Nagal (IND) 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4
Lucas Pouille (FRA x25) bt Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) bt Guido Pella (ARG x19) 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) bt Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-1, 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, 6-3
Kei Nishikori (JPN x7) bt Marco Trungelliti (ARG) 6-1, 4-1 retired
Women, 1st rd
Elina Svitolina (UKR x5) bt Whitney Osuigwe (USA) 6-1, 7-5
Venus Williams (USA) bt Zheng Saisai (CHN) 6-1, 6-0
Sofia Kenin (USA x20) bt Coco Vandeweghe (USA) 7-6 (7/4), 6-3
Madison Keys (USA x10) bt Misaki Doi (JPN) 7-5, 6-0
Johanna Konta (GBR x16) bt Daria Kasatkina (RUS) 6-1, 4-6, 6-2
Ons Jabeur (TUN) bt Caroline Garcia (FRA x27) 7-6 (10/8), 6-2
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x3) bt Tereza Martincova (CZE) 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/3)
Karolina Muchova (CZE) bt Elena Rybakina (KAZ) 6-4, 6-4
Serena Williams (USA x8) bt Maria Sharapova (RUS) 6-1, 6-1
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) bt Angelique Kerber (GER x14) 7-5, 0-6, 6-4
Ashleigh Barty (AUS x2) bt Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 1-6, 6-3, 6-2