Serena Williams recovered from a poor start to defeat a game Sloane Stephens 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 and book her spot in the fourth round of the U.S. Open on Saturday.
It took time for Williams to get going at Arthur Ashe Stadium as a mixture of poor timing, particularly on the backhand, and fantastic variety from Stephens saw the 2017 champion take a deserved lead.
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But Williams, once again attempting to level Margaret Court’s overall record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, remained calm and upped the ante. By the time Williams broke for a 4-2 lead in the second, Stephens never looked like recovering.
The third seed, a six-time champion in New York, won 10 of the final 12 games and can now look ahead to for a fourth-round match with Maria Sakkari.
Early on, it appeared more likely Williams would be preparing her suitcase as the American great’s timing on her groundstrokes was left wanting.
Stephens consistently stretched the play wide with Williams’ movement nowhere near its peak and a couple of poor backhands set up a double-break 5-2 lead before the opening set was ruthlessly served out to love.
As has so often been the case, though, Williams shook it off and found another gear, triumphing in a 16-shot rally to break for 4-2 before the errors crept into Stephens’ game, which had previously been so clean.
In no time the match was level at a set apiece as the momentum shifted wildly into Williams’ favor, and, although Stephens valiantly fought off three break points, she made the breakthrough when her opponent went long to open up a 3-1 lead in the decider.
From there it was little more than a training exercise for Williams, who wrapped proceedings up in one hour and 43 minutes when Stephens went long from the baseline.
Williams vs. Stephens statistical breakdown
Williams – 29/23
Stephens – 25/18
Williams – 12/3
Stephens – 0/1
Break points won/chances
Williams – 4/10
Stephens – 2/5
First serve percentage
Williams – 60
Stephens – 79
Percentage of points won on first/second serve
Williams – 78/39
Stephens – 60/53
Williams – 81
Stephens – 72
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