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American tennis star Serena Williams made an emphatic return to the US Open after last year’s controversial final by thrashing her long-time rival Maria Sharapova in a dramatic match.

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37-year-old Williams won 6-1 6-1 in a first-round meeting which ended up lasting just 59 minutes.

Eighth seed Williams, who is bidding for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title and a first since returning from giving birth two years ago, broke Sharapova’s serve five times as she eased into a second-round meeting with fellow American Catherine McNally.

When asked about the decision not to allow Portuguese umpire Carlos Ramos to officiate her matches in New York following their infamous row, Williams said: “I do not know who that is.”From the moment Williams and Sharapova were drawn against each other on Thursday, the latest meeting between two of the biggest names in the sport was the main talking point of the first round at Flushing Meadows.

World number one Osaka said she was going to “set a timer” to make sure she did not miss the match, while 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer added he would be watching while he warmed up for his opener which followed on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The arena barely had an empty seat for the opening night session of the tournament, with former world heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson and Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin among the 24,000 fans.

Williams and Sharapova have had a frosty relationship since they first met on court in 2003, although the American said before they were due to meet at the French Open last year – a match which she then pulled out of with injury – that she did not have any “negative feelings” towards the Russian.

By Olukayode Oniwinde

Read also; Serena Williams Again, Tops Forbes Highest Paid Sports Women List

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