Williams mounted a comeback to beat McNally in three sets, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 but the 17-year-old grand slam rookie taking a set from her in a second round match at the US Open is something that no had ever done in 19 attempts.
The six-time US Open champion turned it on after that, evening the match at one set apiece and then dominating the third set by winning every point on her serve and 24 of 29 points overall.
McNally, who has watched Williams play for her entire life, matched her serving throughout.
“When I went out there, I just worried about myself,” McNally said. “I didn’t think who was on the other side of the net as much. But obviously I knew I was playing against the greatest of all-time. I knew that I had to bring a certain level.”
With the win, Williams advanced to the third round where she will play the winner of Karolina Muchova and Su-Wei Hsieh on Friday.
Williams has had countless injuries and setbacks this year and her battle with McNally brought frustration and despair but she appreciates the long road that lays ahead to win a possible record-tying 24th Grand Slam.
“I think it’s great because I want to be able to win matches where I’m not playing my best, play players who are playing great, be able to come through. I need to be tested, I guess,” she said.
“Sounds scripted. Actually, I’d rather not be tested in every match. But that doesn’t happen, so it’s important for me to have those, like, really rough, rowdy matches. That helps a lot.”
The second round of the US Open continues today, highlighted by 15-year-old American Coco Gauff’s match with Hungary’s Timea Babos at 7:00 PM ET. Rafael Nadal and defending Women’s champion Naomi Osaka will also be on the court today.