Tennis: Serena shrugs off record-chase after US Open first round win

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Serena Williams serves during her first round match against Kristie Ahn at the 2020 US Open.  PHOTO:  AFP/AL BELLO

NEW YORK —   Serena Williams insisted she isn’t focusing on records as she took a step towards a 24th Grand Slam title with a straight-sets win in the US Open first round Tuesday.

The 38-year-old overcame the loss of her first service game in the opening set to power past Kristie Ahn 7-5, 6-3 in a virtually empty Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Williams is pursuing a seventh US Open title at the US National Tennis Center that would take her level with Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles.

But she insisted afterwards that neither record is really on her mind.

“Yeah, in a weird way I feel like every time I come here I’m being told I broke another record. I felt like I had something last year. Maybe it was a tie for Chris Evert,” she said nonchalantly.

“But it’s cool. I don’t think I appreciate it enough, which is unfortunate. But I’m in the middle of a Grand Slam, so it’s not the time to be focused for me on records when I’m thinking about winning a tournament,” Williams added.

It has been more than three years since Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open – when she was already pregnant with daughter Olympia.

She has come close since, reaching four major finals only to come away empty-handed.

Her chances have improved this year by the absence of several top players, including world number Ashleigh Barty and the second-ranked Simona Halep, due to coronavirus fears or injury.

Williams took a few games to get into the swing of things, giving up her serve early on with a double fault.–AFP

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