Russia-born American star Sofia Kenin revealed Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams provided inspiration for her breakthrough Australian Open success.

Kenin, who moved to the United States when she was a child, claimed her first grand slam title on Saturday, fighting back to beat Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-2 6-2 in the final at Melbourne Park.

The 21-year-old was to leapfrog 23-time major champion Williams to reach number seven in the WTA rankings following her triumph, becoming the top-ranked American player.

Kenin will now join her role model on the USA team for an upcoming Fed Cup qualifier, but she was also keen to highlight her Russian roots and the "feisty" approach she learned from Sharapova, a five-time grand slam winner.

"I definitely think [my Russian heritage] helped me," Kenin told a news conference. "I've looked up to Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova. I followed their matches when I was little.

"I feel like I got the feisty [approach]. I saw what it's like. She won a grand slam at 17, Maria, which I remember watching on TV. Yeah, I feel like that definitely helped me.

"I have part of Russian stuff inside me, the fight that I have, trying just to be confident, do what I do best.

"And thank you to my parents for giving me the American dream. [Being the American number one] is exciting. I'm so happy. I was told if I would win, I'd be number seven [in the world].

"It's such an honour. I love representing the US. I just love it. It's like an honour.

"Everything is coming into place, a dream come true. Everything I've done, all the hard work I've been doing is paying off.

"It hasn't sunk in yet. Everything is just still a blur for me. I just can't believe what happened. Yeah, it's just great. I feel like I'm doing some great things for American tennis.

"It's such an honour. I've watched Serena. I've been following her, all the slams she's been winning. It's a special feeling just to be ahead of her.

"I'm just super excited. I can't wait to compete, be on the same team with her in the Fed Cup."

As well as dropping the first set to Muguruza, Kenin recovered from a love-40 deficit on her serve at 2-2 in the decider.

"I'm so proud. Obviously not many people can do that," she said. "I feel like mental toughness has been a huge part. I've worked on that over the course of the years. It's just paying off.

"I knew I had to take my chance. I had to be brave by playing a two-time grand slam champion. All respect to her. She played a really tough match. Every point was such a battle."

Kenin is the 11th different champion in the 13 grand slams since the start of 2017, yet she was hoping to enjoy a period of dominance going forward.

"I would love to. That would be amazing," she said. "Right now, I mean, I still can't believe what just happened. I need to somehow come down and just let it all sink in.

"Hopefully, I can just keep going, build on everything that I've done these past two weeks, just move forward."

Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova came through their first-round matches at the Australian Open, as Maria Sharapova suffered an early exit in the women's singles.

Fourth seed Halep was handed a testing opener against Jennifer Brady, who had beaten Ash Barty at the Brisbane International this month.

But the Romanian prevailed 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 in one hour and 36 minutes to join home hope Barty, defending champion Naomi Osaka and tournament favourite Serena Williams in round two.

An up-and-down first set was crucial, as Halep twice recovered from a break down and saved three set points while Brady was serving at 6-5.

Halep found a way to force a tie-break and then edged it 7-5 before running away with the contest in the second set.

Wimbledon champion Halep also had to overcome a first-set fall that required the trainer to check on her wrist and joked she had also stumbled in her first match of the 2018 tournament, when she made it all the way to the final.

"In 2018 it was the same, probably I can repeat that!" said Halep.

"I don't know why in the first round always I fall down. Maybe it's a good sign but it's too far to think about that.

"My wrist is pretty painful. I need to chill and recover for the second round."

Second seed Pliskova earned a 6-1 7-5 victory over Kristina Mladenovic, losing serve just once in the 87-minute battle. The Czech faces Laura Siegemund next, while Halep will take on Harriet Dart.


TOP 10 ALL THROUGH AS SHARAPOVA'S WOES CONTINUE

Sharapova suffered her third consecutive loss in the first round of a grand slam following a 6-3 6-4 defeat against 19th seed Donna Vekic as the former world number one hit 31 unforced errors.

A first-round casualty at Wimbledon and the US Open, Sharapova - who has been struggling for form and fitness - crashed out in the first round of the Australian Open for the first time since 2010.

Sixth seed Belinda Bencic won 6-3 7-5 against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, while Madison Keys was a 6-3 6-1 victor against Daria Kasatkina, as all of the top 10 seeds moved safely into round two.

Elina Svitolina claimed a 6-4 7-5 victory in her match against Katie Boulter, while former grand slam champions Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza were winners against Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Shelby Rogers respectively. Muguruza won by an unusual 0-6 6-1 6-0 scoreline.


KONTA AND VONDROUSOVA BOW OUT

Johanna Konta, Marketa Vondrousova, Amanda Anisimova and Anastasija Sevastova were the seeds to fall on day two.

An Australian Open semi-finalist in 2016, British 12th seed Konta suffered a 6-4 6-2 loss to Ons Jabeur.

On the comeback trail following a tendinitis-related problem in her right knee, which forced her to withdraw from Brisbane and Adelaide, Konta was only making her second appearance since losing in the US Open quarter-finals last year.

Konta said: "Ultimately the main thing was to start playing again, and I am. How I physically felt out there is obviously a massive tick for me compared to where I was in September. Before Brisbane I had been out for almost four-and-a-half months."

Czech Vondrousova, the 15th seed and French Open finalist last year, lost in three sets to Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Another rising star fell as 18-year-old American Anisimova lost out in a final set to Zarina Diyas, while home hope Ajla Tomljanovic emphatically accounted for Sevastova with a 6-1 6-1 triumph to book a round-two meeting with Muguruza.

Has the Australian Open seen the last of Maria Sharapova? The 2008 champion is not sure following her first-round exit on Tuesday. 

Sharapova crashed out in the opening round of the Australian Open for the first time since 2010 after going down 6-3 6-4 to 19th seed Donna Vekic in Melbourne.

A five-time grand slam champion, Sharapova has struggled for form and fitness following just 15 appearances in 2019 as her stunning fall from grace since a 15-month drugs ban - which expired in 2017 - continued.

Former world number one Sharapova suffered her third consecutive loss in the opening round of a slam after early exits at Wimbledon and the US Open.

Asked whether the prospect of not returning to the Australian Open has crossed her mind, Sharapova told reporters: "I don't know. I don't know. I was fortunate to get myself to be here and thankful to [Tennis Australia CEO] Craig [Tiley] and the team allowing me to be part of this event. It's tough for me to tell what's going to happen in 12 months' time."

Sharapova's season was interrupted by injuries last year, with the 32-year-old Russian star posting an 8-7 win-loss record.

Question marks over Sharapova's future are set to intensify as the world number 145 – who received a wildcard for this year's event – is projected to drop outside of the WTA's top 350.

"I would like to," Sharapova said when asked if her body is capable of holding up to feature in more tournaments. "I don't know. I don't have a crystal ball to tell you if I can or if I will, but I would love to, yeah."

Sharapova added: "It's tough to say I'm on the right track right now 45 minutes after the match. But, I mean, there is no way to get out of it except to keep believing in yourself, because if you do do all the right things and you don't believe in yourself, then that's probably a bad formula."

Maria Sharapova is in the midst of the worst grand slam losing streak of her illustrious career after the former world number one crashed out at the Australian Open. 

Sharapova suffered her third consecutive loss in the opening round of a slam following Tuesday's 6-3 6-4 defeat to 19th seed Donna Vekic in Melbourne, where she committed 31 unforced errors.

A first-round casualty at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, five-time major champion Sharapova was ousted in one hour, 21 minutes in sunny conditions on Rod Laver Arena.

It is the first time in a decade that Russian star and 2008 winner Sharapova has fallen at the first hurdle of the Australian Open.

Sharapova – who last won a slam via the 2014 French Open – lost to countrywoman Maria Kirilenko in three sets in 2010.

The 32-year-old has been struggling for form and fitness after a first-round exit prior to the Australian Open in Brisbane.

Sharapova only played 15 matches last season due to injuries, finishing with an 8-7 record as her stunning fall from grace since a 15-month drugs ban, which expired in 2017, continued.

The Australian Open should be delayed or postponed if air quality deteriorates and smoke blankets Melbourne, according to Dr Matthew Conron. 

Australia has been ravaged by bushfires in recent months, triggering poor air conditions and concerns among players for their welfare ahead of the year's first grand slam.

Australian Open organisers have come under fire after allowing qualifiers to take place on Tuesday, despite a thick haze of smoke, forcing Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic to retire, while Eugenie Bouchard, Bernard Tomic and Maria Sharapova also struggled.

The main draw gets underway on Monday and all eyes are on the Victorian capital with conditions continuing to fluctuate.

Asked if the slam should go ahead, Conron - Associate Professor and Director of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne - told Omnisport: "From a respiratory physician's point of view, if you had air quality of the type we have seen previously, I'd think the recommendation would be to delay or postpone the tournament until the weather cleared.

"I wouldn't think there'd be risk of long-term damage to your lungs. However, there's certainly a risk of precipitating an asthma attack. For those who have known asthma in particular, they'd be at a significant disadvantage to whose who haven't."

Conron, who helped prepare athletes for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing amid concerns over poor air quality in China, added: "Everyone would be at increased risk of developing respiratory symptoms.

"A lot would get sore throats, a bad and irritating cough and a smaller number would probably get asthma-type symptoms, particularly if they're not adequately controlled.

"If I was to provide advice to players and those wanting to do exercise in those conditions, if possible don't."

Tuesday's conditions were in the "very poor" range. For such weather, the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) recommends avoiding being outside and reducing prolonged or heavy physical activity. In some areas of Melbourne and Victoria, conditions were "hazardous". In those conditions, people are urged to close their windows and doors, while keeping physical activity levels as low as possible.

Conron added: "There's athletes who don't know they have asthma or might only have mild asthma and they're not on treatment. For that group of people, there's also the risk of increased symptoms associated with exposure to poor air quality. They might perform worse than they normally perform.

"The other thing is, tennis players are under the WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] code. So you can't just treat them with steroids or high doses of inhalers without an adequate diagnosis, because they run the risk of being tested and face a ban.

"At the Australian Open, they would've had to notify WADA they are on medication. For example, if there's someone who doesn't know they have asthma and have an attack - you're allowed to take 16 puffs of Ventolin a day, which doesn't get you over the threshold. Not all inhalers are approved."

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki - who has degrees in physics and maths, biomedical engineering, medicine and surgery - also provided an insight into the conditions that have left tennis players concerned.

"I'd tell them not to do it [play]. The right thing to do would be to cancel the tournament," Kruszelnicki told Omnisport. 

"Sitting at rest, we breathe in maybe five litres of air every minute. But if we're exercising hard, we can get up to 50-70L. So you have these athletes on the court and they're shifting huge amounts of air in their lungs and they're getting acute affects from it. The air is not safe to breathe.

"Our immune system is made stronger by the moderate amount of exercise we do. But when you get to the top-grade athletes, their immune systems go to lunch and they're really fragile.

"These athletes at the tennis and Olympic Games, they're scared of people coming in with influenza. They are pushing their bodies way beyond what's actually healthy, but they want to win a tournament. In terms of the effect of the air pollution on them, they're more at risk than a less highly trained person, because their immune system has been knocked out of whack. 

"They have pushed themselves so hard but they have compromised their immune systems. So they're taking more pollutants in, but their bodies are more fragile. You think they have big muscles and can run around. In that regard they can, but almost certainly, they'd be more fragile. The technical term is an insult - an infection or pollution."

Venus Williams' clash with Coco Gauff headlines the Australian Open first round, but former champion Stan Wawrinka also faces an early test in Melbourne.

Williams and Gauff will meet for the second time in what is a blockbuster opening-round encounter.

But there are several intriguing clashes in the first round at the year's first grand slam and we take a look at six of the best.

 

Damir Dzumhur v Stan Wawrinka [15]

Wawrinka would have preferred a friendlier draw than a man he has lost to in two of their three meetings. The Swiss 2014 champion was resurgent last year, while Dzumhur has been unable to replicate the form of his breakout season in 2017. Still, the Bosnian beat Wawrinka in three sets on clay in Geneva last year so the three-time grand slam champion will have to be near his best.

Daniil Medvedev [4] v Frances Tiafoe

Tiafoe thrilled during a run to the quarter-finals in Melbourne last year, but that would prove to be the high point of his 2019. The American has made a slow start to 2020 with first-round losses in Doha and Auckland, but was competitive against Medvedev in a 6-2 7-5 loss in Washington last year. After a spectacular 2019 that included reaching the US Open final, Medvedev shapes as the most likely to stop the 'Big Three', although he will need to get through a somewhat tricky opener first.

Sam Querrey v Borna Coric [25]

While he has dropped off since 2017, Querrey will fancy his chances against Coric after the Croatian's difficult finish to last year. Coric finished 2019 with six straight losses and suffered two more at the ATP Cup, to go with a win over Dominic Thiem. After four consecutive first-round exits in Melbourne, Coric reached the fourth round last year, while Querrey has never been beyond the third round in Melbourne. Coric won their only previous meeting at the French Open in 2015.

Venus Williams v Coco Gauff

Arguably the pick of any first-round match, the 39-year-old Williams meets the 15-year-old Gauff once more. Gauff stunned Williams 6-4 6-4 at Wimbledon last year and her ranking then (313) compared to now (66) tells the story of how she finished 2019 as the teenager followed it up with a title win in Linz. Williams withdrew from Brisbane due to injury, making this a hugely tough task for the seven-time grand slam singles champion.

Kristina Mladenovic v Karolina Pliskova [2]

Pliskova has enjoyed Melbourne in recent years, reaching at least the quarter-finals in each of the past three, but was handed a tough start in 2020. The Czech is coming off a title win in Brisbane and that will give her much-needed confidence ahead of facing former world number 10 Mladenovic. The pair have split their previous four meetings, with Mladenovic winning the last of those in 2017.

Donna Vekic [19] v Maria Sharapova

A wildcard, Sharapova was always going to be the danger in the draw – and she landed alongside 19th seed Vekic. Vekic enjoyed a fine 2019 to rise into the world's top 20, while Sharapova battled injuries and has fallen to 145th in the rankings. Vekic should be the favourite to advance, but if five-time major winner Sharapova can find some form, the Russian is always a threat and last bowed out in the opening round in Melbourne in 2010.

A tennis player who abandoned her Australian Open qualifying match amid the bushfire smoke in Melbourne feared she would collapse on the court.

Dalila Jakupovic was a set to the good against Stefanie Vogele when the Slovenian suffered a coughing fit, eventually dropping to her knees and requiring assistance.

She was taken off the court and, speaking after the match was called off, the world number 180 expressed her surprise that it even went ahead, given the poor air quality.

"I was really scared that I would collapse," she said. "That's why I went onto the floor because I couldn't walk anymore.

"I don't have asthma and never had breathing problems. I actually like heat.

"The physio came again and I thought it would be better. But the points were a bit longer and I just couldn't breathe anymore and I just fell on the floor.

"It's not healthy for us. I was surprised, I thought we would not be playing but we don't have much choice."

Across the city at the Kooyong Stadium, former world number one Maria Sharapova's match against Laura Siegemund was called to a halt for the same reason.

The Russian was trailing 7-6 (7-4) 5-5 in the Kooyong Classic clash when play was suspended and Sharapova said officials had "made the right call".

Bushfires have ravaged Australia in recent months and led to concerns over the air quality at the year's first grand slam, which begins on Monday. 

Elina Svitolina, a quarter-finalist in Melbourne in each of the past two years, expressed her frustration at the perceived lack of action over the issue.

She tweeted: "Why do we need to wait for something bad to happen to [take] action?".

The tweet was accompanied by a graphic which showed the air quality to be "very unhealthy".

Maria Sharapova revealed she felt a "cough coming" before her match against Laura Siegemund at the Kooyong Classic was suspended.

Smoke blanketed Melbourne on Tuesday and play at the Australian Open was delayed, with readings showing the air quality in Victoria's capital as "very poor".

As players struggled with the conditions at Melbourne Park, Sharapova also battled at nearby Kooyong before her match against Siegemund was stopped.

The Russian former world number one, who was trailing 7-6 (7-4) 5-5, said organisers made the right decision.

"We played over two hours and I actually started feeling a little bit of a cough coming up to the end of the second set," Sharapova told SBS.

"But I've been sick for a few weeks so I thought it was something to do with that.

"When I heard Laura speak to the umpire and said she was struggling with it as well I was like, 'Okay, thankfully I'm not the only one' and then the umpire came down and said let's just play one more game.

"We were out there for over two hours so I think from a health standpoint it was the right call from the officials."

Bushfires have ravaged Australia in recent months and led to concerns over the air quality at the year's first grand slam.

Qualifying, and practice, were postponed early on Tuesday before play resumed, although Dalila Jakupovic retired from her match after having difficulties breathing.

Former champion Maria Sharapova has been given a wildcard into the Australian Open.

Sharapova, 32, endured an injury-hit 2019, playing just 15 singles matches – winning eight – and slipping to 147th in the rankings.

The Russian suffered a first-round loss at the Brisbane International on Tuesday, but will take her place at Melbourne Park.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley confirmed on Wednesday that the 2008 champion would be given a chance at the year's first grand slam.

"We will give Maria Sharapova a wildcard," he told a news conference.

Sharapova has struggled to find her best form since returning from a 15-month drugs ban in 2017.

The five-time grand slam champion has reached the quarter-finals of a major just once in her past eight attempts, including making a fourth-round exit at the Australian Open last year.

Novak Djokovic matched Maria Sharapova's donation of $25,000 to help those affected by bushfires in Australia.

Bushfires have ravaged large parts of the country in recent months, with New South Wales and Victoria hugely impacted.

Sportspeople have rallied to raise funds for victims and Sharapova and Djokovic offered their help as the duo prepare for the upcoming Australian Open.

"The month of January in Australia has been my [home emoji] for the past 15 years," Sharapova wrote on Twitter.

"Watching the fires destroy the lands, its beautiful families and communities of animals is deeply [heartbreak emoji].

"I would like to begin my donation at 25K. @DjokerNole, would you match my donation? #letsallcometogether."

Djokovic responded on Monday, writing: "Yes, @MariaSharapova I would like to match your $25k donation to double the aid sent to these communities. We stand by you, #Australia."

World number two Djokovic will be aiming for an eighth Australian Open title and 17th major when the grand slam starts on January 20 in Melbourne.

World number six Stefanos Tsitsipas eased past Andrey Rublev to secure a Mubadala World Tennis Championship semi-final against defending champion Novak Djokovic.

Just weeks out from the start of the 2020 ATP Tour season, Tsitsipas geared up for the new campaign with a dominant win in the opening match of the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament.

The Greek, who won the 2019 ATP Finals, saw off Rublev - a deputy for Gael Monfils - 6-3 6-4, seizing his first match point.

Djokovic is up next, with Tsitsipas having won twice and lost twice in competitive meetings with the great Serbian, each of them coming at Masters 1000 tournaments.

In the other semi-final, Rafael Nadal will renew his one-sided rivalry with Karen Khachanov, who saw off Hyeon Chung 7-6 (7-4) 6-4.

Top-ranked Nadal has won each of his seven prior meetings with Khachanov, including as recently as at the Davis Cup Finals, where Spain went on to claim the title.

Khachanov had stepped in for fellow Russian Daniil Medvedev, the outstanding star of the second half of 2019, who pushed Nadal to five sets in the US Open final.

Rublev and Chung will now meet in Friday's fifth-place play-off before the two last-four clashes.

Meanwhile, in the one-off women's exhibition, five-time major champion Maria Sharapova saw off Ajla Tomljanovic in straight sets.

The 32-year-old edged a break-heavy opener but trailed in the second set before levelling and then nudging in front to avoid a tie-break, triumphing 6-4 7-5.

Teenager Coco Gauff has been promoted to the Luxembourg Open main draw after Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova pulled out with injuries.

Kerber is suffering with a leg injury while Sharapova has a shoulder problem, depriving next week's WTA event of two of its biggest names.

But the news means Gauff enters the competition proper, without needing to qualify, along with regular doubles partner Caty McNally.

Gauff, just 15, burst onto the scene at Wimbledon as she reached the fourth round, before impressing again at the US Open, her home grand slam, by winning two matches.

In her first appearance since Flushing Meadows, playing as a lucky loser, Gauff has reached the quarter-finals of Linz Open and will break into the world's top 100 next week.

She plays top seed Kiki Bertens on Friday for a place in the last four.

Williams sisters Serena and Venus barely raised a sweat on day one of the US Open, while Ashleigh Barty dug deep to advance in New York.

Serena and Venus Williams lost three games between them as the American pair cruised through to the second round at Flushing Meadows on Monday.

Former world number one and French Open champion Barty survived a big scare, 2017 US Open runner-up Madison Keys eased into the next round but Angelique Kerber crashed out.

 

SERENA EXTENDS SHARAPOVA DOMINANCE

It was a ruthless performance from 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams, who demolished Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-1.

Serena – who was at the centre of an infamous meltdown during last year's US Open final – made it 19 straight victories over five-time major winner Sharapova.

Fellow American Caty McNally is up next for Serena after easing past Timea Bacsinszky 6-4 6-1.

Two-time champion Venus Williams, meanwhile, routed Zheng Saisai 6-1 6-0 to extend her first-round record at the tournament to 21-0.

"I was happy with today, so I'm not going to ask for more," said Venus, who faces Elina Svitolina after the fifth seed defeated Whitney Osuigwe 6-1 7-5.

As for 10th seed Keys, she kicked off her campaign with a 7-5 6-0 victory over Misaki Doi after 63 minutes.

 

A MUCH-NEEDED AUSTRALIAN WIN

Australian sport was reeling on Sunday when Ben Stokes and the England cricket team produced a stunning fightback in the third Ashes Test.

And it briefly appeared fans Down Under were set for further pain when Aussie star Barty remarkably fell 5-0 behind to Zarina Diyas in the first set played at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the tournament.

But Barty – a former cricketer – rallied 1-6 6-3 6-2 to provide a much-needed boost, having herself taken in Australia's Headingley aberration.

"[England's performance] was pretty good. Credit where credit's due," she said. "Stokesy was incredible.

"I think we missed some opportunities and my whole team were glued to it. I have an English trainer, as well. He's had a fantastic 24 hours of feeding it to us and not letting us forget that result."

 

ADDED NERVES AMONG CZECH MATES

Karolina Pliskova came through two tie-breaks in an all-Czech clash packed with breaks to beat Tereza Martincova – and the third seed cheekily blamed her opponent's nationality for her nervy display.

"It was not perfect, but I'm through, so that's important," she said. "The first rounds they are always a little bit nervous, I would say, for most of the players.

"It doesn't help that you play somebody from your country, because then it adds some extra nerves, which maybe would not be there if she's from China or something."

Unable to respond as Pliskova did, Kerber was a big opening-day casualty, losing 7-5 0-6 6-4 to Kristina Mladenovic.

Meanwhile, Johanna Konta, who reached the last four at Roland Garros and the last eight at Wimbledon, was made to work for three sets by Daria Kasatkina, having appeared set for swift and stylish progress after taking the opener before prevailing 6-1 4-6 6-2.

Anastasija Sevastova consigned Eugenie Bouchard to a miserable 12th straight singles defeat, a run stretching back to February.

Serena Williams offered a terse response when asked about the decision to not have Carlos Ramos as part of her matches, claiming she did not know who the umpire was.

Ramos will not umpire Williams during the US Open after the pair infamously clashed during last year's final, which the American lost to Naomi Osaka.

Williams had a meltdown during the decider and was involved in numerous altercations with Ramos, calling the umpire a "liar" and "thief" after he initially gave her a warning for coaching.

After her 6-1 6-1 thrashing of Maria Sharapova in the first round on Monday, Williams was asked about the United States Tennis Association's decision not to have Ramos umpire her matches.

"Yeah, I don't know who that is," Williams responded.

Williams was in impressive form against Sharapova, needing just 59 minutes to claim her 19th straight victory over the Russian.

It was also Williams' 20th win in 22 meetings with Sharapova and the 23-time grand slam winner said the match-up just seemed to suit her.

"I just feel like her game really matches up well against mine. I always said her ball somehow lands in my strike zone," she said.

"I don't know. It's just perfect for me."

Williams entered the year's final major having retired during the Rogers Cup final and pulled out of Cincinnati, but the 37-year-old played down any concerns over her back injury.

"Yeah, back feels good. I thought I could finagle and play in Cincy. Last-minute decision that I definitely couldn't," she said.

"I got some more training in, yeah."

Serena Williams produced an impressive performance to crush Maria Sharapova in the US Open first round on Monday.

The American star made it 19 straight wins over Sharapova with a 6-1 6-1 thrashing at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Williams, back at the US Open after her meltdown during her loss to Naomi Osaka in last year's final, was in incredible form, winning in just 58 minutes in New York.

The 37-year-old – looking to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slams – showcased her usual power, but made few mistakes in what was a dominant display.

After a high-quality and intense start, Williams – showing no signs of the back injury that saw her retire during the Rogers Cup final – landed the first blow, breaking in the fourth game when Sharapova sent a backhand into the net.

Williams looked in superb form and another backhand error from Sharapova saw her race into a 5-1 lead on the way to taking the opening set.

Sharapova had few answers to Williams' power and precision, the latter powering through in style.

Williams, the eighth seed, will face American Caty McNally in the second round.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Serena Williams [8] bt Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-1

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Williams – 16/12
Sharapova – 6/20

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Williams – 5/2
Sharapova – 1/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Williams – 4/5
Sharapova – 0/5

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Williams – 57
Sharapova – 75

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Williams – 78/60
Sharapova – 52/0

TOTAL POINTS
Williams – 55
Sharapova – 28

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