New York, September 2: Serena Williams started her latest bid for a 24th grand slam crown with a hard-fought win over Kristie Ahn in the opening round of the US Open.
Former world number one Williams has been stuck on 23 slam titles since winning the 2017 Australian Open, losing four major finals since that last success at Melbourne Park.
But in pursuit of equalling Margaret Court's record, six-time US Open champion and third seed Williams made a winning start in New York, where the American superstar overcame countrywoman Ahn 7-5 6-3 on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Williams will next face Margarita Gasparyan for a spot in the third round after breaking the record for most singles wins (102) in US Open history.
In a slam like no other, played behind closed doors at Flushing Meadows and with strict measures amid the coronavirus pandemic, Williams - in her longest drought without winning a slam since 1999 - found herself in early trouble on Tuesday.
World number 96 Ahn opened up a 2-0 lead in the opening set, buoyed by Williams' struggles at the Western & Southern Open, where the 38-year-old capitulated against Maria Sakkari in the last 16.
Williams, though, fought back to level the set and fended off a break point in the ninth game to push ahead 5-4.
Working Williams around the court, Ahn refused to go away and hit some big shots but her record-seeking opponent stood tall when it mattered most, using her experience to break to 15 in the 12th game to close out a challenging opener.
Just like the first set, Ahn built a 2-0 cushion after breaking in the opening game but that is as good as it got for the 28-year-old, who was powerless to stop Williams reeling off five successive games and six of the last seven en route to the second round.
Williams  bt Ahn 7-5 6-3
Williams - 28/24
Ahn - 12/24
Williams - 13/3
Ahn - 2/6
BREAK POINTS WON
Williams - 4/6
Ahn - 2/3
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Williams - 62
Ahn - 57
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Williams - 85/38
Ahn - 56/50
Williams - 70
Ahn - 53