NEW YORK — Even before Serena Williams set foot in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night, her path through the U.S. Open to complete the Grand Slam became a lot easier, thanks to losses by other top women.
And when it was the No. 1-seeded American’s turn to play her first-round match, she was not tested one bit by a woman who appeared overwhelmed by the opponent, the occasion and, to make matters worse, an injured left foot.
So Williams moved one step closer to tennis’ first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1988 without much of a workout, reaching the second round when 86th-ranked Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia stopped playing while behind 6-0, 2-0. Williams was out there for just 27 minutes and took 32 of the 37 points that were played.
“I told her I was proud of her for even coming out and making this effort when she was injured,” Williams said during an on-court interview.
The 33-year-old American told the crowd she appreciates the support she is receiving “on this journey and this milestone that I’m trying to take one match at a time.”
Next up for her is the Netherlands’ Kiki Bertens, who is ranked 110th, only once made it as far as the fourth round at any major tournament and picked up just the second U.S. Open match victory over her career by eliminating Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 on Monday.
Williams, in contrast, is 22-0 in Grand Slam matches in 2015 alone, with championships on the hard courts of the Australian Open in January, the red clay courts of the French Open in June and the grass courts of Wimbledon in July. If she can add a title on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows in less than two weeks, Williams would be the first player since Steffi Graf 27 years ago to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same season.
Thumbnail photo via Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Images