Serena Williams began her latest attempt to win a 24th Grand Slam singles trophy by beating Kristie Ahn in the first round at the US Open on Tuesday. Things didn’t go as smoothly for her sister, as Venus Williams lost in the first round of the event for the first time in 22 attempts.
In her match, Serena Williams split the first 10 games before pulling away to win 7-5, 6-3. The victory was her 102nd at the tournament, breaking the tie she held with Chris Evert for the most by a woman in the Open era.
Williams hit 13 aces and lost only six points on her first serve.
“It’s been years, since the ’90s, since I won a match in straight sets,” Williams said. “It felt really good. I was like, ‘Serena, just be Serena and close it out,’ and I know I can do that, so it felt really good.”
Williams, who will turn 39 this month, has won the tournament six times and has been runner-up in each of the past two events. She is seeded No. 3 and hoping to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
“I was really happy with how I just fought for every point, no matter how I was playing,” Williams said. “I was like, ‘OK, Serena, just gotta get my Serena focus back,’ so that’s what I’ve been trying to work on today.”
Venus Williams was beaten by No. 20-seeded Karolina Muchova 6-3, 7-5.
It was small consolation to Venus that by appearing in the tournament for the 22nd time, she broke the women’s record in the Open era. She had been tied with Martina Navratilova.
Serena Williams was among the few spectators for the match, having already won on Tuesday.
The 40-year-old Venus was the oldest player in the draw. She fell to 1-7 this year.
Later Tuesday, three-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters lost while playing her first Grand Slam match in eight years.
The four-time major champion was beaten by Ekaterina Alexandrova 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Clijsters won the tournament in 2005, 2009 and 2010, and she retired after the 2012 Open. Now 37 and the mother of three, she embarked on a comeback this year but has lost all three of her matches and struggled with injuries.
She started well against Alexandrova, but the pace of Clijsters’ serve fell off in the third set, when she appeared to be hampered by a recent abdominal injury.
Earlier, Garbine Muguruza opened the second day of the tournament by dedicating her win to a former top-10 player who had just revealed her cancer diagnosis.
Muguruza, the No. 10 seed, defeated Nao Hibino 6-4, 6-4 and thought about Carla Suarez Navarro, who shared her diagnosis publicly earlier in the day.
Suarez Navarro revealed in a tweeted video that she’ll need six months of chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin lymphoma.
“I was expecting to see her in this tournament,” Muguruza said. “You know, she’s such a nice woman, so sweet, so kind, so humble.
“I, for sure, will dedicate this win to her because I want her to feel that we are behind her, that I am behind her, and I will go and see her at some point when it’s fine.”
Suarez Navarro, who will turn 32 on Thursday, was ranked as high as No. 6 and she has reached Grand Slam quarterfinals seven times, including at Flushing Meadows in 2013 and 2018.
Others advancing included 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, No. 9 seed Johanna Konta and No. 16 Elise Mertens.
Stephens beat Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 6-3, 6-3. Stephens won the title when she was ranked No. 83. She’s seeded 26th this year.
Stephens played on Court 17, and she said a match with few spectators required an adjustment.
“It’s back to girls’ 12, where it’s you and your parents, and the girl you’re playing and their parents,” she said.