For the third time so far this season, world No. 1 Serena Williams and American youngster Sloane Stephens will meet again on the WTA tour to rekindle their rivalry. Stephens’ ascended to notoriety with her upset victory over Williams at the Australian Open two years ago but still trails her American counterpart 1-4 in the head-to-head series. She also lost her only clay court encounter against Williams, which took place a few weeks ago in Madrid.
In a bizarre third round encounter on Saturday, Serena Williams found herself down a set and a break to Victoria Azarenka before she reeled off four consecutive games to secure the second set and force a decider. From there, Williams rallied to victory to secure her run to the fourth round of the tournament.
“I was really disappointed with my last match, and I knew I couldn’t play like that against someone like Vika. It would be impossible to win,” Williams said. “Even though I lost the first set, I told myself, ‘Well at least you’re playing better than in your second round match.’ I would have lost so easily if I played that same way. It was definitely better today – it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
In a far simpler match, Sloane Stephens dispatched Tsvetana Pironkova in straight sets to earn her place in the fourth round. She won the match 6-4, 6-1 in one hour and 15 minutes of court time.
This marks the sixth time that Williams and Stephens will cross paths on the professional tour and the third time so far this season. Williams leads the head-to-head series 4-1. Apart from their most recent meetings at Indian Wells and Madrid over the past few months, the two had not crossed paths in over two years, which certainly added to the flair. In the end, however, Williams should still have little trouble closing out this match. She won their most recent encounter – a clay court match – in straight sets and will likely duplicate that effort in Paris on Monday.
Prediction: Serena Williams in Straight Sets