In the marquee match of the first week, Serena Williams got the better of Sloane Stephens with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 win in a battle of former US Open champions.
The 27-year-old Stephens started on fire behind her serve and powerful forehand which was slapping winners for much of the first 30 minutes. After missing early break chances in the second, Sloane fell apart, allowing Serena back in. And the 23-time Slam champion gladly took control and never let go, running away with the match taking 10 of the last 12 games.
“I just missed all of them in the first set, so I think in the second set I feel like my serve percentage went up a little more and I had to start making a few more,” Serena said of her serve.
“I think, you know, that definitely helped a lot.”
Stephens, whose only win over Serena came well over seven years ago, credited her compatriot.
“I thought we played a good match,” said Stephens. “Obviously she raised her level and she started serving a bit better. Overall I didn’t think I did anything wrong necessarily. Tried to stay in the match as best I could.
“Yeah, she just played better today.”
Serena will now get a rematch with Maria Sakkari who stunned the former No. 1 last week at the Western. Sakkari overwhelmed 19-year-old Amanda Anisimova 6-3, 6-1.
‘You have to come up with some great tennis. Otherwise there is no chance against her,” Sakkari said of playing Serena. “So the keys were to stay, to make the match as physical as I could. That’s most like the tactic with most of the players that I play.”
Serena’s good friend Victoria Azarenka also advanced rolling past 19-year-old Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-2. Azarenka will now meet Czech Karolina Muchova. The 24-year-old Muchova came back from the brink against Romanian veteran Sorana Cirstea who served for the match and later held three match points at 6-3 in the breaker. Muchova took it 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(7).
Former finalist Madison Keys pulled up lame with a neck issue in the second set of her match with Alize Cornet. The Frenchwoman advanced to her first US Open fourth round 7-6(4), 3-2 ret.
“Unfortunately, I felt that something was off with my neck yesterday,” Keys stated. “I tried to play through it but it got progressively worse and was unable to continue playing. I will take a couple days to take care of my body and prepare for the clay swing.”
Cornet now gets the surprising Tsvetana Pironkova. The 32-year-old Bulgarian return this week after three years away on maternity leave, and now she fins herself in the fourth round after blowing past last year’s quarterfinal Donna Vekic 6-4, 6-1.
“Living outside of tennis for three years, I kind of experienced a lot of different things in my life,” Pironkova said. “Of course, the biggest thing is that I am now a mother. My focus is primary on my child and my family.
“I know that tennis is not everything in life. As I said, it’s a game that I have to enjoy.”
Elise Mertens saved two first set points to dispatch the fiest 18-year-old Caty McNally 7-5, 6-1. Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, a winner over Ons Jabeur 7-6(4), 6-3, is next.
On Monday, Naomi Osaka has another date with Anett Kontaveit a week after beating the Estonian in 3. Petra Kvitova returns and Angelique Kerber will try to slow down the hot-handed Jen Brady.
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