NEW YORK • There were worries about Serena Williams' right shoulder and concerns over her difficult opponent. But in a little over an hour on court, she let the rest of the women's field know that she is in good form.
The American opened her US Open account with a tidy 6-3, 6-3 win over Russian Ekaterina Makarova on Tuesday, to join her sister Venus in the second round of the US Open.
Serena, whose status as world No. 1 is under attack on several fronts, delivered a message that she will not be surrendering the top spot without a fight.
She needed just 63 minutes to dispatch the 29th-ranked Makarova.
Germany's world No. 2 Angelique Kerber, Spain's world No. 3 Garbine Muguruza and Poland's world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska will all be eyeing the top ranking should Serena's bid for a record 23rd Grand Slam title stall.
Serena has owned the No. 1 spot since Feb 18, 2013 and will extend her streak to 186 consecutive weeks by the end of the US Open fortnight, tying the Women's Tennis Association record held by Steffi Graf.
At the Arthur Ashe Stadium, she showed no signs of the injury that caused her to withdraw from the Cincinnati Open this month. She made quick work of Makarova to follow Venus' lead.
Sixth-seeded Venus had provided the opening act when she outlasted Ukraine's Kateryna Kozlova 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.
It was the 36-year-old's 72nd appearance at a Grand Slam - a record. "I don't know when I'm going to stop playing," she said. "I appear to be getting better each and every month. So I'd like to make that record hard for someone to break. Where is Serena at? Not far behind?"
Serena, featuring in her 65th Grand Slam tournament, does not have to wait too long to make history. The 34-year-old is bidding for a seventh US Open title that would surpass the Open-era record she shares with Chris Evert.
But whether it is the world No. 1 ranking or another record at stake, she had the same answer.
"I don't answer those questions," said Serena, who will next face American wild card Vania King, a 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 winner over German qualifier Antonia Lottner.
NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS