Serena Williams had a tough draw to start the 2016 U.S. Open but had little problem earning a 6-3, 6-3 win over Ekaterina Makarova.
The 22-time Grand Slam winner had been dealing with a shoulder injury coming into the tournament, an ailment that had slowed her down during the Rio Olympics. However, you wouldn't know it from her impressive performance Tuesday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Williams was truly dominant with her serve in the win. Not only did she not face a single break point on the night, she went 28-of-31 on her first serve and tallied 12 aces to just one double-fault.
When she didn't win immediately, she found a way to succeed, taking five of six points at the net.
Makarova had some good moments as well, but she made too many mistakes to remain competitive. Her five double-faults mitigated her four aces, while 19 unforced errors and just 10 winners were also disappointing.
Although she has had a lot of success in this event in the past, the Russian was simply no match for the best female tennis player in the world. All of a sudden, the bracket clears up nicely for the top seed, per WTA Insider:
WTA Insider @WTA_insider
The only seed Serena Williams could face before the quarterfinals: No.16 Sam Stosur. #USOpen2016-8-31 00:52:46
Serving was the story for both players in the first set of this highly anticipated matchup, which featured a back-and-forth battle of holds early. Williams was especially impressive while winning 20 of 25 points with her serve, including 17-of-18 on the first serve. Eight aces and zero double-faults also contributed to the success.
Makarova was nearly as good early with a serve that was nearly as hard as the No. 1 seed. It only came down to one break by Williams in the sixth game that gave her the advantage.
The favorite was then able to close things out in the first set with two aces, the last one courtesy of U.S. Open Tennis:
US Open Tennis @usopen
Aces for days: #Serena knocks down another to take the opener from #Makarova, 6-3. #usopen @chase https://t.co/ysrNGt4CF12016-8-31 00:16:09
It was much of the same story in the second set as Williams' serve remained on fire.
WTA Insider noted how good she looked into the second set:
WTA Insider @WTA_insider
The Serena shoulder/serve is looking good tonight. She’s fired 10 aces, topped out at 121mph. Brought her A-game vs. Makarova.2016-8-31 00:34:54
Carl Bialik of FiveThirtyEight add some more stats to show just how good the American was with the ball:
Carl Bialik @CarlBialik
Serena Williams on serve: Won 32 of 40 points 10 aces 0 double faults 0 break points faced Right shoulder seems alright2016-8-31 00:37:04
One break in the fifth game gave Williams the advantage, and she finished it off with another break in the final game to close out the win. It took just 62 minutes of action to close out the first-round victory.
Makarova represented a tougher opponent than the No. 1 seed usually faces in the first round. The Russian was a semifinalist at this event in 2014 and could have easily been seeded at this year's event, currently ranked No. 29 in the world.
Howard Bryant of ESPN the Magazine warned about the competition:
Full Dissident @hbryant42
Makarova is a good, good player, who has beaten Serena on hardcourt, in a major, at the Aussie. Tough lefty https://t.co/DlLinQ3QCH2016-8-30 22:56:05
"She's a big fighter," Williams said of Makarova before the match, per Peter Bodo of ESPN.com. "She never really stops. She gets a lot of balls back. You think she's not super quick, but she is."
Even with a difficult matchup, Makarova was truly the unlucky one with the way the draw worked out.
Williams will now move on to the next round to face American Vania King, who defeated Antonia Lottner in straight sets. If she performs like she did in Round 1, it could be a deep run for the all-time great.
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