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U.S. Open Tennis 2019 • The Fans • The Ladies First Round Match That Could Have Been A Finals • Sharapova Loses To Serena In Less Then 60 Minutes

By Alix Ramsay

And we’re off. The first day of the US Open 2019; the first grand slam champion to fall (Angie Kerber) at the US Open 2019 and the first chance to see what people get up to at the US Open 2019.

Now, call me old fashioned (and that is one of the nicer things I have ever been called over the years), but if you have spent the money on a ticket and if you have made the effort to come to Flushing Meadows, you would think you might want to watch the tennis. Apparently not.

As the thousands milled around the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, most were either on their phone, looking at their phone, sending messages via their phone or watching the action through the lens of their phone. It would appear that nothing is real unless it has been recorded on a phone. Who wants to watch the tennis live when you could be recording little snippets of it and sending it to your mates back in the office?

Of course, it is a generational thing. Old farts like me are still of the opinion that cell phones are primarily to be used to phoning people. But what do we know? Phoning people involves talking to people and millennials don’t really do that. They IM, DM, they tweet, they Instagram, they snapchat and they WhatsApp. In my day, DMs were Doc Martens and a pair of them, a bin bag and a handful of safety pins and you were dressed for a big night out. Admittedly, it was the era of punk but things do seem to have changed somewhat.

Real, live communication appears to be dying a death. The younger generations try to avoid it at all costs preferring, instead, to ping emojis across the ether. It does make you wonder how they will ever reproduce.

“Well, me and Himself, we want to start a family. We’ve been Whatsapping each other recently but so far nothing has happened. In fact we’ve been Whatsapping like rabbits but, alas, I am still not yet with child. It’s ever such a worry.

“I asked me mum what to do and she suggested IVF. “What’s that?” I said. “Intentional Verbal Foreplay” she said. But I said “no”. I want this pregnancy to be as natural as possible. Oh, hang on, my phone’s buzzing…I’ll have to go…”

And so it was that 20,000 phones were glued to the marquee match of the opening day, the one that everyone had been waiting for since the draw was made on Thursday: Serena Williams against Maria Sharapova. The 22nd meeting between the two celebrity juggernauts of women’s tennis.

Back in the days of their pomp, these two bitter rivals – and they take the term literally – would try and knock lumps out of each other for fun. Serena usually won, 19 times in the past 15 years in fact, but the ferocity and the sheer venom generated by their collisions in major championships made even the more one-sided of their matches fascinating to watch.

But neither woman is in her pomp now. Serena is doing everything she can to get back there but at the age of 37 she is finding the comeback from maternity leave, from all the physical changes of pregnancy and the added complications of surgery, an almighty struggle. If movement was never her forte back when she was winning grand slam titles to a band playing, then it is a positive liability now. But she still knows just how to beat Sharapova.

Shazza, on the other hand, looks in better physical fettle than her old foe but her right shoulder is still little more than a disaster waiting to happen. Her serve – never her most reliable weapon – is there for the taking. She was getting her first serve in all right – 78 per cent of the time in the opening set – but she was only winning 57 per cent of the points when she did so. Serena, by contrast, was only landing 53 per cent of her first deliveries but she was winning 83 per cent of the points behind it. She was also running away with the first set in just 24 minutes.

For one brief moment, it looked as Shazza could make a fight of it in the second set. She had two break points in the fourth game. Fair enough, she was already a break down by this point, but she had manufactured an opening for herself. And then Serena slammed the door shut, we were back to business as usual.

It was all over in 59 minutes (the quickest match so far was Iga Swiatek against Ivana Jorovic, a 51 minute thrashing handed out by the Pole to win 6-0, 6-1) as Serena was simply too good and too strong for her rival. She always is. Serena’s fastest second serve was 102mph; Shazza’s fastest first serve was 108mph. It is a gulf that Shazza has never been able to bridge.

But no matter that the result was a foregone conclusion or that it had been 15 years since Shazza last beat Serena, the meeting of the superstars was still the only show in town. It is just a pity that most people under the age of 30 were seeing it from behind an iPhone, iPad or Android. But who needs live sport when you have technology?

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