What sore shoul­der?

Ser­ena Wil­liams opens U.S. Open with easy win over Makarova de­spite on­go­ing shoul­der trou­ble

The Daily Herald - - SPORTS - By Howard Fendrich

NEW YORK — If this is how Ser­ena Wil­liams serves when she can’t prac­tice prop­erly be­cause her right shoul­der is sore, watch out when she’s 100 per­cent healthy.

A year af­ter fall­ing two wins short of a cal­en­dar-year Grand Slam by bow­ing out in the U.S. Open semi­fi­nals, Wil­liams showed zero signs of shoul­der trou­ble Tues­day night as she be­gan her bid for a record­break­ing 23rd ma­jor ti­tle.

She hit 12 aces and reached 121 mph on her pow­er­ful serve dur­ing a 6-3, 6-3 vic­tory over Eka­te­rina Makarova, a potentially tricky firstround op­po­nent at Flush­ing Mead­ows.

“I was pleased with my serve, be­cause I haven’t been hit­ting a lot of serves at all,” the 34-yearold Wil­liams said. “In prac­tice, none of them were go­ing in, so I was def­i­nitely ex­cited about that.”

Since equal­ing St­effi Graf’s mark for most Grand Slam sin­gles tro­phies in the Open era, which dates to 1968, by earn­ing No. 22 at Wim­ble­don in July, the No. 1-ranked Wil­liams had only en­tered one event — the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where she was up­set in the third round. She cited a sore shoul­der in with­draw­ing from a hard-court tour­na­ment a week later.

Looked per­fectly fine against Makarova, a two-time Grand Slam semi­fi­nal­ist who is ranked 29th and beat Wil­liams in straight sets at the 2012 Aus­tralian Open.

“I knew to­day I needed to be fo­cused be­cause I’ve played her. She’s got­ten to the semi­fi­nals. She goes deep in ma­jors. She knows how to play big matches on big courts. She’s not in­tim­i­dated,” Wil­liams said. “I knew I had to re­ally come out to­day. It was my only op­tion, re­ally.” Well, con­sider that done. Wearing black sleeves on each arm — she called the ac­ces­sories “def­i­nitely func­tional” be­cause they “keep my mus­cles warm” — Wil­liams av­er­aged 108 mph on first serves and won 17 of the first 20 points she served, 36 of 46 over­all, never ap­pear­ing to be the least bit both­ered by any­thing.

And she even fig­ured maybe the time she couldn’t spend serv­ing dur­ing train­ing ses­sions paid off, in a way, be­cause she was forced to work on other as­pects of her game, in­clud­ing foot­work.

“I couldn’t hit any balls. I wanted to stay fit, so … I guess that kind of helped me out a lit­tle bit,” she said.

In 2015, Wil­liams ar­rived at the U.S. Open hav­ing won four con­sec­u­tive ma­jor ti­tles for a self-styled “Ser­ena Slam.” But had she won the cham­pi­onship in New York, too, she would have made it 4 for 4 within a sin­gle sea­son, some­thing no one had done since Graf in 1988.

But that pur­suit ended with a sur­pris­ing semi­fi­nal loss to Roberta Vinci of Italy.

Later, Wil­liams ac­knowl­edged what was at stake had been a bur­den.

Wil­liams was asked Tues­day whether this edi­tion of the U.S. Open might be a more pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence than a year ago, with­out the same sort of his­tory on the line.

“I had a great ex­pe­ri­ence last year. I was go­ing for some­thing that no one has done in a re­ally long time,” she replied. “Yeah, it didn’t end out won­der­ful for me, or the way I wanted it to end, but it was all I could do. That’s all I could do. If I could make the semis this year, I’d be ex­cited about that.”

Ear­lier, Wil­liams’ sis­ter Venus got through a tougher-thanex­pected 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 win against Kateryna Ko­zlova.

“It was great to be chal­lenged and to be pushed,” said the 36-year-old Venus, a two-time U.S. Open cham­pion, “be­cause I had to get in those sit­u­a­tions that you know you’re go­ing to face in the tour­na­ment.”

There were var­i­ous up­sets around the grounds dur­ing the af­ter­noon, in­clud­ing 19-year-old Amer­i­can Jared Don­ald­son’s 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-0 elim­i­na­tion of 12th-seeded David Gof­fin, and a loss by No. 29 Sam Quer­rey, who stunned No­vak Djokovic at Wim­ble­don. Three seeded women de­parted, in­clud­ing for­mer No. 1 and 2008 French Open cham­pion Ana Ivanovic.

Andy Mur­ray got off to an easy start at the U.S. Open in his at­tempt to be­come the fourth man in the Open era to reach all four Grand Slam fi­nals in a sin­gle sea­son.

The 2012 cham­pion at Flush­ing Mead­ows and seeded No. 2 this year, Mur­ray beat Lukas Rosol 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 on Tues­day night to get to the sec­ond round.

Mur­ray lost to No. 1 No­vak Djokovic in the fi­nals of the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary and French Open in June, and then won his sec­ond Wim­ble­don ti­tle last month.

Only Djokovic (last sea­son), Roger Fed­erer (2004, 2006 and 2007) and Rod Laver (1969, when he com­pleted a cal­endaryear Grand Slam) have been to a sea­son’s four ma­jor ti­tle matches since the pro­fes­sional era be­gan in 1968.

Mur­ray has won 23 of his past 24 matches, in­clud­ing an un­prece­dented sec­ond con­sec­u­tive Olympic sin­gles gold medal at the Rio Games this month.

Amer­i­can Steve John­son ral­lied from down two sets and a break to move on to the sec­ond round at the U.S. Open.

The 19th-seeded John­son out­lasted Evgeny Don­skoy 4-6, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3, 6-3 in 3 hours, 13 min­utes.

Don­skoy, ranked 79th, served for the match in the third set, and then had two match points on John­son’s serve three games later.

John­son, who lost in the first round at his last three U.S. Opens, routed Don­skoy 6-1, 6-1 at the Olympics less than three weeks ear­lier. It was his sec­ond ca­reer come­back from down two sets.

He had 54 un­forced er­rors in the first three sets and 20 in the last two. John­son next faces 2009 U.S. Open champ Juan Martin del Potro.

DARRON CUM­MINGS / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ser­ena Wil­liams serves to Rus­sia’s Eka­te­rina Makarova dur­ing the first round of the U.S. Open on Tues­day in New York. Wil­liams cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 win in the match.

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