"If you don’t dare to try and chase your dreams, you'll rob yourself the joy of doing it. Don't just dream it" tweeted Serena Williams before the match. Unbeaten in first-round clashes at US Open, she opened her campaign with an emphatic 6-3 6-0 win over Magda Linette.
Also wildcard Victoria Azarenka, a two-time US Open finalist, notched her first win at the tournament since 2015 by overcoming Slovakian Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-3 7-5, in the first night match in Louis Armstrong Stadium. Serena, whose only loss to a player outside the Top 50 at Flushing Meadows came against then-unranked Clijsters in 2009 semifinal, celebrated her 90th US Open victory, second-most in the Open Era behind Chris Evert (101-12).
Making her 18th appearance at US Open since debut in 1998, second-most among players in the draw, two behind her sister, began her 69th Grand Slam main draw appearance: among active players she trails only her sister Venus (80) and Schiavone (70) owning a 68-1 (.985) record in major first-round matches.
Up next for her the German Carina Witthoeft. The former world No.1, who lost in the 2012 and 2013 finals to Serena Williams, needed an hour and a half to outpower rising 20-year-old Kuzmova. In the second round, she will face No.25 seed Daria Gavrilova who destroyed Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-0 6-0.
Kuzmova hit three pivotal unforced errors to gave the opponent the decisive break in the opening set. The Belarusian would complete her 38th victory in a Grand Slam first-round match, the 11th in as many main draw appearances at US Open.
A former junior champion in 2005, Azarenka aims to become only the second player after Lindsay Davenport to win both the girls’ singles and women’s singles titles in New York. Unseeded Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2007’s Round 16 run, she entered the tournament having played only 10 events for the season, but she never looked in danger to suffer her third defeat to players ranked outside Top 50 in 2018.
Sloane Stephens embarked on her US Open title defense on Monday, defeating 80th-ranked Evgeniya Rodina, 6-1, 7-5, in the new Louis Armstrong Stadium. Making her seventh main draw appearance in Flushing Meadows, Stephens aims to become the seventh player to win the US Open as the No.3 seed in the Open Era, most recently by Sharapova in 2006.
Playing a Russian opponent for the first time at the US Open, the ninth overall, was the first to break thanks to a double fault to gain a crucial lead. Stephens, now owning a 5-4 against Russians at Grand Slam level, was bidding to avoid her six defeat to players outside the Top 50 in 2018 and consolidated the break for 4-1 before closing out the set in a mere 27 minutes.
Rodina, coming off her best showing at a major by reaching the Round 16 at Wimbledon, fell behind 0-2 in the second set but battled back to level at 4-4, aiming for her second Top 20 career win. But Stephens played with even more drive and relentless aggressiveness to break Rodina at love to 6-5 and sealed the win with 24 winners to 22 unforced errors.
The American, who posted a 28-11 record after the Australian Open and now owns a 19-8 record in Grand Slam first-round matches, will next play Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina, who was leading 1-6, 7-6, 5-2 when fellow qualifier Kathinka von Deichmann of Liechtenstein retired.
Ace leader Julia Goerges reached the 389-mark as she defeated Anna Kalinskaya 62 67 62 as she hit 44 winners to 32 errors. The Russian, aiming for her maiden Grand Slam victory, won just 41% of second serve points and completed the match with 21 winners to 36 errors.
Contesting US Open on a career-high singles ranking of No.9, the German No.2 assured two Germans are seeded in the Top 10 at a Grand Slam for the first time since Steffi Graf was No.1 and Anke Huber No.6 at 1997 Australian Open.
Goerges completed the 51st win to 26 defeats against qualifiers at WTA level in her career and sealed the 19th hardcourt victory of the season. She needed to dig deep to produce her eight straight success against Russian opponents since 2017 Washington title-match and extend to 24-18 her record in first-round Grand Slam play.
Former grand slam finalist Lucie Safarova, one of the most dangerous unseeded players in the draw, clinched a second-round match against Ashleigh Barty, still recovering from a lingering virus that forced her withdrawal from last week's lead-up event in New Haven.
"I've known Ons since we were very young and knew what she's capable of," Barty said. "She's a very exciting player, has a lot of shots and has the ability to take the game away from you. So it was important that I made her play a lot of balls today and really work for every point"