Serena Williams Stops Sloane Stephens in Three Sets to Advance to Round of 16 at US Open
(September 5, 2020) In a battle between two former US Open champions, No. 3 seed and six-time champion Serena Williams fought back to defeat 2017 champion Sloane Stephens 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 on Saturday in Arthur Ashe Stadium to move into the round of 16 at the US Open in Flushing Meadows.
Stephens, 27, jumped out to grab the first set, mainly by moving Williams around the court. Williams also had problems getting her first serve in.
“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,” said Williams.
The turning point in he match came at 2-2 in the second set when Williams saved break points to prevent the No. 26 seed from extending her lead. From that point on, Williams’ numbers on her first serve improved as well as her movement on the court. The 23-time major champion won 10 of the next 12 games to close out the victory.
“I have to say we always have some really incredible matches, and it brings out the best in my fitness when I play Sloane,” Williams said in her on-court interview. “She’s definitely a great player, and she’s won on this court.”
“Every tournament I enter is important for me, and particularly the Grand Slams, because quite frankly, I’m playing for Grand Slams, or to try to have a chance.”
“I thought we played a good match,” Stephens said. “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.”
It’s been a tough year for Stephens who came into the tournament with a 1-8 record. “I got two good matches in. Obviously not playing after five months, a long time off, difficult to kind of know how you’re going to come back.
“Obviously Lexington and Cincinnati weren’t what I had hoped for. But here just kind of getting some matches under my belt, knowing that I have a few more tournaments left to play, I’m just going to go out and get after it, and hopefully kind of build on this and keep going into Europe.”
Williams, 38 now moves into the fourth round where she’ll face Maria Sakkari of Greece. Two weeks ago, at the Cincinnati tournament , which was played at the site of the US Open, Williams let a big lead slip against Sakkari and lost the match.
Other winners on Saturday included the following seeds: No. 2 Dominic Thiem, No. 3 Daniil Medvedev, No. 6 Matteo Berrettini, and No. 10 Andrey Rublev.
Unseeded Canadian Vasek Pospisil knocked out No. 8 Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets, while No. 21 Alex de Minaur stopped 11th seed Karen Khachanov. Felix Auger- Aliassime, the 15th seed joined his two Canadian countrymen, Pospisil and Shapovalov in the the fourth round,
Other women’s seeds advancing so far on Saturday – No. 16 Elise Mertens No. 20 Karolina Muchova. Unranked Tsvetana Pironkova took out 18th seed Donna Vekic. The last time the Bulgarian was in the fourth round of the US Open was 8 years ago.
Victoria Azarenka ran past Iga Swiatek 6-2, 6-4. The two-time major winner became the third mother on Saturday to win, after Williams and Pironkova.
“There was a time maybe for one-and-a-half, two years after I became a mom where I didn’t really picture coming back to the tour at all.,” said Pironkova who hasn’t played a tournament in three years. “I was, you know, happy with the moment, just wanted to live through everything, through this new exciting times in my life.
“But then I started thinking about tennis more and more. Also having this opportunity of the special ranking gives you more motivation, as well, because you’re not starting from scratch, as we can see. My first tournament is actually main draw in US Open. That is a huge opportunity.
“At one point I was like, I do not want to miss that opportunity, I’m going to start training, I’m going to do everything I can, and it’s going to be different this time because, first and before all, I kind of enjoy it because tennis is before all a game. It’s interesting, exciting, and super cool game that you can have a lot of fun playing (smiling). That is what I’m trying to do.”
Alize Cornet advanced when No. 7 seed Madison Keys was forced to retire with a neck injury, with the Frenchwoman leading 7-6, 3-2.
“I could see at the beginning of the second set she was in pain and she’s not the type of player to retire easily,” Cornet said after the match. “It’s awful. I got so tight because I could see she couldn’t serve normally but everything else was so good. The most important was I was holding my serve.”
In her news conference, Cornet commented on the situation with her countrywoman Kristina Mladenovic who was withdrawn from the doubles tournament due to her exposure to Benoit Paire who tested positive for COVID-19 before the tournament began.
“I was shocked,” Cornet said. “I wrote her directly to know what was going on. I think she’s a bit overwhelmed by everything. I can understand it because it’s quite a story out there. I’m not sure I have all the information needed to have an opinion on this.
“But it’s definitely weird because she could play her first round of singles and first round of doubles, and now suddenly she’s kicked out from the draw. I think it’s very brutal.
“I’m really not sure what to think about it. Something for sure is that I am very sad for her, very sad she has to stay here. When she’s negative and she could be home. I mean, everybody wants to go home when they’re done with the tournament. Now she has to stay here. I know it’s part of the rule, but I think it’s still pretty brutal to be kicked out this way.”
No. 2 seed and Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin reached her first US Open fourth round with a 7-6(4) win over  Ons Jabeur in the evening session in Louis Armstrong Stadium,
“It’s really good to have this pressure, it means you’re the favorite, people look up to you,” Kenin said in her on court interview. “Pressure is a privilege. Billie Jean King.”
The #USOpen Sweet 16!
🇺🇸 Brady vs. Kerber 🇩🇪
🇰🇿 Putintseva vs. Martic 🇭🇷
🇯🇵 Osaka vs. Kontaveit 🇪🇪
🇺🇸 Rogers vs. Kvitova 🇨🇿
🇫🇷Cornet vs. Pironkova 🇧🇬
🇬🇷 Sakkari vs. S. Williams 🇺🇸
🇧🇾 Azarenka vs. Muchova 🇨🇿
🇧🇪 Mertens vs. Kenin 🇺🇸
— wta (@WTA) September 6, 2020