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