Serena Williams hadn’t played much coming into the Grand Slam tournament. An injury hampered her preparation, and she served miserably in the match.
That was the story in the fourth round of the 2012 Australian Open, when a young Russian lefty named Ekaterina Makarova stunned Williams in straight sets. The victory fueled Makarova’s surge up the rankings, and by the 2014 U.S. Open, she was in the top 20 and facing the American in the semifinals.
That day is a much more pleasant memory for Williams, a 6-1, 6-3 win that was part of a dominant run to the title. It’s the kind of form she’s hoping to regain as she begins her bid for a record 23rd major title.
But Williams has played just three singles matches since Wimbledon, hindered by a right shoulder injury. In her last outing, a third-round loss to Elina Svitolina in the Olympics, her serve deserted her much as it did against Makarova in Melbourne 4 1/2 years ago.
“Usually I prefer to play more coming into the final Grand Slam of the year, but there is nothing we can do about it,” Williams said Friday. “You just have to make the best of every single opportunity. That’s all I can do now.”
And she won’t get a chance to ease into the U.S. Open, the luck of the draw was not kind to the top-ranked Williams. Makarova just missed out on a seed and is No. 29 this week.
They’ll open the night session at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday.
Other matches to watch on Day 2 of the U.S. Open:
NOBODY LIKES LUKAS: In the nightcap on Ashe, second-seeded Andy Murray faces Lukas Rosol. The last time they met, Murray wound up grumbling across the court to his opponent: “No one likes you on the tour, everyone hates you.”
It all started when Rosol appeared to intentionally bump Murray during a changeover in that quarterfinal match at Munich in 2015. Murray later expressed some regret for his choice of words if not for his intentions in standing up to Rosol, who has a reputation for such gamesmanship.
On Friday, Murray said he and Rosol hashed things out after the match and “I have actually gotten along fine with him apart from that day.”
The 81st-ranked Rosol, who upset Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012, will probably need much more than intimidation tactics to knock Murray off his game Tuesday. Murray has won 33 of his last 35 matches, picking up a second Wimbledon title and second Olympic gold medal along the way.
DEL POTRO’S BACK: Since winning the 2009 title, Juan Martin del Potro has missed three of the last six U.S. Opens because of injuries. He’s back at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2013, playing fellow Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the first round Tuesday.
Ranked 142nd after three left wrist surgeries, del Potro needed a wild card to get into the tournament. But since the start of Wimbledon, he’s defeated three of the U.S. Open’s top four seeds. Tuesday will give the first indication of how physically and emotionally drained he still is from his stunning run to a silver medal at the Olympics.
FLIPPING OUT: Venus Williams hasn’t played a singles match since an early exit in Rio, either though she did wind up winning silver in mixed doubles. The sixth-seeded American opens her tournament against 93rd-ranked Kateryna Kozlova on Tuesday.
The player who beat Williams in the first round at the Olympics, Kirsten Flipkens, gets another chance to upset a top-10 opponent when she meets fifth-seeded Simona Halep.