NEW YORK -- Top seed Serena Williams had no problems with 18-year-old American wild card Taylor Townsend, rolling to a 6-3, 6-1 win in 55 minutes to advance to the second round of the U.S. Open. She'll face another American, Vania King, in the next round.
Three thoughts on Serena's clean start to her U.S. Open campaign:
This was the perfect start: In a hyped-up match under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium against an opponent she had never played before, Serena displayed the level of tennis she needs to win this tournament. If there were any nerves, she showed no signs of them. If there were any doubts, she erased them. Williams continued to build on her lights-out performance in the Western & Southern Open final, serving big and hitting clean off the ground. She was pounding down serves at 122 mph and hit 16 winners to 8 unforced errors. Her footwork was sharp as well.
"I think my game was good for tonight," Williams said. "There's always a little nerves going into the first round, especially as a defending champion. So I feel like I served well. I served the way I wanted to serve." This was a dominant and focused Serena Williams. The field should be worried.
We didn't learn anything new about Townsend, and that's OK: The Chicago teenager has risen more than 200 spots in the rankings since the start of the year and now sits right outside the top 100. But she's still a work in progress and we saw that Tuesday against the game's best. Her desire to be aggressive and take the ball early -- somewhat reminiscent of her friend and occasional doubles partner Eugenie Bouchard's approach -- is a good development in her game. Townsend has been better at taking it early on her forehand rather than her backhand, but the backhand was the shot that was working for her Tuesday. When she gets set for that shot, particularly when she's pulled wide, Townsend can rifle it with great pace into the corners. She hit just six winners off the ground while spraying 14 unforced errors, but while the execution was lacking the intent was right. The key for Townsend will be improving her footwork. On more than a few occasions her feet got crossed up, causing her to hit out of an awkward position. Experience and repetition, especially on these big stages, can only help her.
Townsend may have been handed a lesson in power tennis from her idol, but the experience only encouraged her. "I learned that the game style that I want to play can hold up against the best players," she said. "And the reason I say that is because I was really committed to just moving forward. Whenever I got a short ball, whenever I saw a ball that I wanted to take and come in, I did it. And it worked. Even though I got passed, I didn't really care. Because I know with time that will get better."
"If I commit to it and believe in it 100%, then the sky's the limit.... It just kind of put a lot of things in perspective and really kind of helped me realize that I'm doing all the right things. I'm in a great space. I'm looking forward to the tournaments to come to build off that."
Townsend had a U.S. Open debut to remember: Townsend readily admitted to being nervous as she took the court. But who wouldn't be? "I was playing against one of my tennis idols, someone I've been watching for years and years," she said. "Playing in my home, the last slam of the year in front of an American crowd. She won this tournament last year. So it's just a lot of different things that were coming up in my head that I was trying to deal with."
In the end she was able to embrace the moment, enjoy it, and walked off the court with a smile. Debut done and dusted. On to the future.