Serena Williams’ quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam got off the mark while Venus Williams bowed out of the US Open in the first round for the first time in her professional career on Tuesday, losing in straight sets to Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic.
There were no major upsets in the women’s draw even as former champions Venus and Kim Clijsters exited early.
The 38-year-old Serena overcame the loss of her first service game in the opening set to power past Kristie Ahn 7-5, 6-3 at a virtually empty Arthur Ashe Stadium, where artwork by black artists is displayed in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement against racial injustice.
She took a few games to get into the swing of things, giving up her serve early on with a double fault. But once she was in her groove there was no stopping her, smashing 13 aces as she dispatched Ahn in one hour 21 minutes.
The 40-year-old Venus, making her 22nd appearance at Flushing Meadows in a career that has spanned four decades, was beaten 6-3, 7-5.
It marked her second consecutive first round defeat at a Grand Slam event after exiting the Australian Open at the same stage in January.
Muchova – who was only one when Williams was playing in her first US Open final in 1997, where she lost to Martina Hingis – always had the veteran American star on the back foot on Tuesday.
After losing the first set, Williams rallied in the second and opened up a 5-3 lead, seemingly poised to force a third set. But a string of unforced errors allowed Muchova to roar back into the match and she reeled off four consecutive games to close out the win.
While Williams knows that time is running out on her career at the top level – she has not gone further than the third round at a Slam event since 2017 – she insisted afterwards that she plans to continue playing, starting with this month’s French Open at Roland Garros.
Kim Clijsters’ first Grand Slam match in eight years ended in defeat when the Belgian veteran was beaten in three sets by Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Clijsters, 37, launched the second comeback of her career earlier this year only to see her return thwarted by the Covid-19 crisis which decimated the international tournament calendar.
However she raised hopes of scoring a massive upset over her 21st-seeded Russian opponent on Thursday after taking the opening set. Alexandrova asserted her class thereafter though, levelling in the second before completing a 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 win.
Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin advanced to the second round with a straight-set win over Yanina Wickmayer.
The 21-year-old Moscow-born second seed from the United States needed just over an hour to score a 6-2, 6-2 win over her unseeded Belgian opponent at Louis Armstrong Stadium. Kenin will play Canada’s Leylah Fernandez in the second round. Fernandez opened her campaign with a 6-4, 7-5, win over Vera Zvonareva on Tuesday.
Tenth seed Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 French Open champion and 2017 Wimbledon winner, advanced to round two with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Japan’s Nao Havino.
She dedicated the win to compatriot Carla Suarez Navarro, who revealed Tuesday that she had been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and will require six months of chemotherapy.
“You know, she’s such a nice woman, so sweet, so kind, so humble. When these things happen to these good people, I feel, like, so sad about it,” said Muguruza.
And ninth seed Johanna Konta beat compatriot Heather Watson 7-6 (9/7), 6-1 in a tie dubbed the “Battle of Britain.”
“There’s always going to be rivalry between compatriots,” Konta said. “It’s always going to be that extra stressful.
“There’s always going to be an element of people having more judgments and more of an opinion on the outside at home on a match like today,” added Konta, who will play Romania’s Sorana Cirstea in the second round.
Madison Keys (USA x7) bt Timea Babos (HUN) 6-1, 6-1
Aliona Bolsova (ESP) bt Jil Teichmann (SUI) 7-6 (7/3), 6-2
Alize Cornet (FRA) bt Lauren Davis (USA) 6-3, 1-6, 6-0
Ysaline Bonaventure (BEL) bt Zhang Shuai (CHN x25) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Donna Vekic (CRO x18) bt Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4
Patricia Tig (ROU) bt Kurumi Nara (JPN) 6-1, 6-0
Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) bt Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) 6-2, 6-3
Garbine Muguruza (ESP x10) bt Nao Hibino (JPN) 6-4, 6-4
Maria Sakkari (GRE x15) bt Stefanie Vögele (SUI) 6-3, 3-6, 7-5
Bernarda Pera (USA) bt Zarina Diyas (KAZ) 7-6 (7/4), 6-0
Katrina Scott (USA) bt Natalia Vikhlyantseva (RUS) 7-6 (7/3), 6-2
Amanda Anisimova (USA x22) bt Viktoriya Tomova (BUL) 7-5, 7-5
Sloane Stephens (USA x26) bt Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU) 6-3, 6-3
Olga Govortsova (BLR) bt Asia Muhammed (USA) 6-1, 6-2
Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) bt Monica Puig (PUR) 6-3, 6-7 (0/7), 6-0
Serena Williams (USA x3) bt Kristie Ahn (USA) 7-5, 6-3
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x5) bt Oceane Dodin (FRA) 7-6 (7/1), 6-4
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) bt Barbara Haas (AUT) 6-1, 6-2
Sachia Vickery (USA) bt Taylor Townsend (USA) 6-2, 6-4
Iga Swiatek (POL) bt Veronika Kudermetova (RUS x29) 6-3, 6-3
Karolina Muchova (CZE x20) bt Venus Williams (USA) 6-3, 7-5
Anna Kalinskaya (RUS) bt Nina Stojanovic (SRB) 6-4, 6-3
Sorana Cirstea (ROU) bt Christina McHale (USA) 6-4, 7-5
Johanna Konta (GBR x9) bt Heather Watson (GBR) 7-6 (9/7), 6-1
Elise Mertens (BEL x16) bt Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-2, 6-2
Sara Sorribes (ESP) bt Claire Liu (USA) 6-2, 6-4
Caty McNally (USA) bt Viktória Kuzmova (SVK) 6-4, 6-1
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS x21) bt Kim Clijsters (BEL) 3-6, 7-5, 6-1
Ons Jabeur (TUN x27) bt Katarzyna Kawa (POL) 6-2, 7-6 (8/6)
Kaia Kanepi (EST) bt Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 6-1, 6-2
Leylah Fernandez (CAN) bt Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 6-4, 7-5
Sofia Kenin (USA x2) bt Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) 6-2, 6-2