On a rainy day in New York, and under the closed roof of the Arthur Ashe Stadium, Serena Williams and world No.117, Margarita Gasparyan, competed for a third-round ticket.
The match lasted all of an hour and a half but finally, Serena wore down the Russian 6-2, 6-4 to continue her quest for a 24th Grand Slam title and tie the record of Margaret Court.
If Serena needed a good workout to prepare for her third round encounter against Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion–she got it in ample doses from Gasparyan who showed great hitting skills, especially when she had time to hit from the baseline.
Playing in front of her husband, Alexis Ohanian, and elder sister, Venus Williams, with a long strap on her left thigh, Serena looked intense and fully concentrated, dispatching Gasparyan in 33 minutes for the first set.
The second set was another story entirely as the contest ebbed and flowed until the ninth game, when Serena held serve and broke Gasparyan in the 10th game to take the set and the match. The sixth game of the second set lasted over 10 minutes while the ninth took a little over eight minutes to get a winner.
After the match, Serena said in the on-court interview she gave at the empty stadium that there was something ‘calming’ about playing without the crowd. “It is just a little more calmly, I think.”
Reflecting on her upcoming opponent, Stephens, Serena said, “She is such a good player, who plays so smooth. She is so smooth, and she is like not using any energy and then, bam, like five winners.”
“She has obviously won here before and she’s beaten me before and she knows how to play well. It is not easy, but I am glad I had a tough match today.”
She added she was glad to get through and will now focus on her next match.
The last time Serena was here, in 2018, she lost to Naomi Osaka in that ‘disputed’ final where she had a clash and war of words with the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos.