It was billed the heavyweight contest of the US Open first round but the latest duel between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova was just as lopsided as most of their past affairs.
Bolstered by a partisan but fair crowd in the packed Arthur Ashe stadium, Williams took just 59 minutes to come out on top 6-1, 6-1 in a meeting of career grand slam winners and former world number one players.
Williams, 37, raised her record over now 87th-ranked Sharapova to 20-2, the Russian's only two victories coming 15 years ago in 2004.
‘You don't understand how much this means to me,’ Williams said on court after a successful start into another bid for a record-tying 24th title at the majors.
‘I am going against a player who's won five grand slams. She is such a good player, you have to be super focussed. It was a fun match.’ For good measure her 39-year-old sister Venus, a two-time New York champ, also won, 6-1, 6-0, against Zheng Saisai in a record-tying 21st appearance at her home grand slam.
Elsewhere, men's world number one Novak Djokovic breezed into the second round as the title holder dispatched 76th-ranked Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 without facing a break point.
Former finalists Karolina Pliskova and Kei Nishikori also had winning starts along with French Open champion Ash Barty and fancied Daniil Medvedev.
But the 2016 champion Angelique Kerber had to swallow another early exit at the majors on the opening day of play at Flushing Meadows, with the 14 seed crashing 7-5, 0-6, 6-4 against 54th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic.
Record 20-time grand slam winner Roger Federer was to complete the opening day of play where the duel between Williams and Sharapova had created a huge buzz ever since Thursday's draw - still being the biggest names and brands in the women's game.
While Williams has dominated the series she was plagued by back problems lately, and Sharapova missed several months over a shoulder injury.
Williams returned to the site where she lost the 2018 final against Naomi Osaka amid tumultuous scenes after receiving a warning, points penalty and then game penalty from umpire Carlos Ramos whom she named a thief and accused of sexism.
She was fully focussed Monday, opening with a service winner and reeling off seven games in a row from 1-1 to 2-0 in the second for full control. She saved five break points in her next two service games, the second with a big backhand passer down the line, and clinched victory when Sharapova made a backhand error.
‘My body is good, my back much better. I am excited, this is going to be fun,’ Williams said, with compatriot Catherine McNally her next opponent.
Djokovic meanwhile has 16 trophies at the majors and is out to close in on Federer's record, with Carballes Baena not able to seriously trouble the Serb although the first set was tight.
‘It took a little to get out of the blocks. I then took my opportunities later,’ said Djokovic who next meets Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina. ‘It is great to be back. I am quite pleased with my performance.’ Fifth seed Medvedev is considered a serious threat after reaching the Washington and Montreal finals, and winning the Cincinnati trophy after ousting Djokovic in the semis.
India's Prajnesh Gunneswaran was no major test for the Russian, who cruised to a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory and could meet Djokovic in the quarters.
Kerber lifted the trophy and became the top ranked women in 2016 but the German, who is without a coach, is struggling as of two years ago in an up-and-down career.
Her defeat against Mladenovic follows first-round exits in Toronto, Cincinnati and the French Open, and a second-round loss at Wimbledon.
‘This year it was not really the best year for Grand Slams for me,’ Kerber said. ‘I will deal with this as good as I can. Also with all the experience that I had the last years, and look forward.’
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