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Serena Williams avoids US Open slip-up to teenager

BOUNCING BACK: Serena Williams

SERENA WILLIAMS had to rally back from an early scare to defeat tenacious teenager Caty McNally and move into the US Open 3rd round on Thursday (Aug 29).

The veteran was out of sorts in the opening set, but bounced back to register a hard-fought 5-7 6-3 6-1 success in a ding-dong contest at New York's Flushing Meadows.

No one could have predicted the astonishing start to the all American clash inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium, when Williams looked woeful and made an almost unprecedented 15 unforced errors to concede the opening set.

McNally, the 17-year-old Doubles partner of rising star Cori 'Coco' Gauff, cleverly mixed up her tactics to confuse her illustrious opponent.

The 2018 French Open Junior Singles runner-up converted her only break point of the match to edge into a 6-5 lead, but then appeared to be forced into the lottery of a tie-break after dropping the next three points.

However, the fearless youngster fought back from 40-0 to hold her serve and claim the set to leave the legendary Williams fuming.

Despite mixing up her strength of shots and spins in the second set, McNally was unable to continue her success. She started to play second fiddle to Williams following the sixth game, her confidence suddenly shattered after she dropped her serve for the first time.

The 37-year-old's vocal outbursts of frustration started to ease as she focused on playing percentage tennis to win points, which halted her wayward groundstrokes being regularly smacked into the net.

Yet McNally was in no mood to simply give in, her superb serve and volley skills often getting the better of Williams. And it took five set points before the encounter was levelled.

With Williams in the ascendency after narrowly clinching the second set the crowd, who began watching the contest late on Wednesday (Aug 28), were expecting some fireworks for the decider.

But the final set proved to be a major disappointment as McNally failed to make much impact and Williams moved into top gear to ruthlessly overpower the teenager.

McNally looked a shadow of herself, failing to win a point on her service game and only claiming five points in the lop-sided set. But Williams was brimming with confidence having upped her game at the start of the final set to capture 16 of the initial 17 points to seriously unnerve the youngster.

The victory meant that Williams avoided what would have been her earliest loss in 19 appearances at the US Open, having been defeated in the 3rd round on her debut as a 16-year-old in 1998.

She picked up the first of her six US Open titles the following year and is now armed with 23 Grand Slam Singles crowns. This fortnight Williams is desperately chasing a record-equalling title to tie with Australian Margaret Court’s long-standing achievement, having suffered three major final defeats since winning the 2017 Australian Open.

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