Serena Williams withstood a brave display from 17-year-old American wildcard Caty McNally at the US Open on a rain-hit Wednesday to keep her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title intact.
Williams, a six-time champion in New York, recovered from dropping the opening set to prevail 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 and set up a third-round showdown with either 29th seed Hsieh Su-Wei or Karolina Muchova.
McNally, who hadn’t been born when Williams won her first Slam at the 1999 US Open, threatened a struggling Williams from the start before the six-time US Open champion won nine of the last 11 games to escape under the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I survived tonight. I’m not too pleased with the way I played at all,” Williams said.
“’Serena, you made way too many errors today. What were you thinking?’ But I’m alive. I’m happy. I’ll do better next time. I promise.”
French Open champion Ashleigh Barty, the second seed from Australia, eliminated 73rd-ranked American Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-6 (7/2), saving a set point before dominating the tie-breaker.
“I knew I was doing the right things,” Barty said. “It was just about execution. I’m glad I came through in the tie-breaker.”
Barty clinched a WTA Tour-leading 44th win of the season to book a date with either Greek 30th seed Maria Sakkari or China’s Peng Shuai, whose match was one of 22 singles ties postponed by rain.
Ukraine fifth seed Elina Svitolina defeated seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4 and US 10th seed Madison Keys, the 2017 US Open runner-up, trounced China’s Zhu Lin 6-4, 6-1.
Earlier in the day, Karolina Pliskova, the 2016 US Open runner-up, became the first woman to qualify for the third round after making quick work of Georgian qualifier Mariam Bolkvadze.
Third seed Pliskova smacked nine aces in a 6-1, 6-4 victory in 66 minutes to maintain her push to regain the world number one ranking.
The 27-year-old needs to reach at least the quarter-finals in New York to stand a chance of usurping reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka at the top.
Elina Svitolina (UKR x5) bt Venus Williams (USA) 6-4, 6-4
Madison Keys (USA x10) bt Zhu Lin (CHN) 6-4, 6-1
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x3) bt Mariam Bolkvadze (GEO) 6-1, 6-4
Serena Williams (USA x8) bt Caty McNally (USA) 5-7, 6-3, 6-1
Ashleigh Barty (AUS x2) bt Lauren Davis (USA) 6-2, 7-6 (7/2)
Note: 22 matches postponed until Thursday due to rain
With AFP Inputs