By: HOWARD FENDRICH
Good as she is, even Serena Williams can find it tough to deal with swirling wind, so much so that she double-faulted three times in her first service game on Thursday at the US Open. And, yes, even a 17-time Major champion such as Williams can lose in the early going at the sport’s biggest tournaments, as she has repeatedly in 2014.
Quickly putting behind a poor-serving start, and showing absolutely no other signs of the type of up-and-down play that has plagued her at Grand Slams this season, Williams dismissed 81st-ranked American Vania King 6-1, 6-0 in 56 minutes to reach the third round.
“She never let me in,” said King, who is 25. “She’s played at such a high level for so long, and I used to watch when I was a kid, growing up. So it’s kind of surreal to see the person that you’ve been watching on TV in front of you and playing. It was difficult.”
While buzz around the tournament grounds built all day waiting for 15-year-old CiCi Bellis to play her second-round match at night – she wound up losing – Williams ran her US Open winning streak to 16 matches as she tries to become the first woman to win three consecutive titles at Flushing Meadows since Chris Evert took four in a row from 1975-78.
For the moment, the 32-year-old Williams wants to stay focused on avoiding the sort of problems she had at the Australian Open (where she lost in the fourth round), French Open (second round) and Wimbledon (third round). Not since 2006 has she failed to reach at least one major final in a year – and she only entered two Slams that season.
So far this week, she’s left the trouble to others, and Williams could wind up being the beneficiary. A pair of other past major champions, No. 8 Ana Ivanovic and No.24 Sam Stosur, lost Thursday, as did No. 23 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No.27 Madison Keys, bringing the total to 11 seeded women gone after only two rounds.
That included No.12 Dominika Cibulkova, the Australian Open runner-up who was surprisingly defeated on Tuesday by Bellis, the youngest player to win a match at the US Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996. Bellis, a Californian ranked 1,208th and playing in her first tour-level event, lost Thursday in three sets to 48th-ranked Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.
In other action under the lights, 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray won in straight sets, before Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard edged Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-4 in the day’s last match.
Williams could have faced Stosur — the woman who beat her in the 2011 US Open final — in the fourth round, and 2008 French Open winner Ivanovic continued…