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Serena Williams tops Taylor Townsend in Flushing Meadows opener

Williams of the U.S. returns a shot to compatriot Townsend during their women's singles match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York

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Serena Williams of the U.S. returns a shot to compatriot Taylor Townsend during their women's singles …

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Serena Williams started her quest to join Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova in joint fourth place on the career grand slam list with a 6-3 6-1 victory over 18-year-old fellow American Taylor Townsend at the U.S. Open on Tuesday.

Williams, seeking her third successive U.S. Open title and 18th grand slam singles crown of her career, was simply too experienced for the erratic-yet-gifted Townsend, the 2012 Australian Open junior singles and doubles champion.

"Taylor is incredibly talented, she's just so good," Williams said of the big-serving left-hander in a courtside interview, while praising the emerging crop of U.S. women in professional tennis. "We have such an amazing future."

Williams, who improved her U.S. Open career record to 73-9, advanced to meet 81st-ranked Vania King after the American battled to a 6-3 3-6 6-3 victory over former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy.

Margaret Court (24), Steffi Graf (22) and Helen Wills Moody (19) lead the list of all-time grand slam singles titles in women's tennis.

(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by John O'Brien)

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