Serena Williams will look to see off the threat of a resurgent Sloane Stephens on Saturday, taking on her fellow American for the seventh time in their career. Serena does lead the head to head 5-1, including one win in New York, although they have not played since 2015 when the 23 time slam winner was still world No.1.
Stephens looked an incredibly vulnerable seed but has coped well with her opening two matches, even if they were very friendly matchups on paper. She beat Mihaela Buzarnescu and Olga Govortsova very comfortably, hitting 23 winners in a 6-3 6-3 winner against the latter. “I thought I played well today. Obviously getting into a little bit of a better rhythm, feeling my game out a little bit more, getting that confidence back,” Stephens said after.
Serena fought off a feisty Margarita Gasparyan in round two, winning in straights 6-2 6-4. She avoided what could have been a scrappy third set by saving break point at 4-4, going on to break for the match in the very next game. “I felt like she returned really well, and I feel like what’s held me back in the past is getting frustrated. I’m out here, fighting, and I felt like the minor setbacks would help me know what not to do next time.” she said after, perhaps grateful that the test she faced was not too tough.
There seems little doubt that Serena’s high standards have built in greater levels of pressure for the former No.1, who has been found wilting in the big matches with slam No. 24 within reaching distance. A change in mindset and a more relaxed Serena could well be a big threat and she should extend that one sided record against Sloane with another win here. “I just feel like, it’s okay, it’s fine, I’m here, and I’m happy. I get to play tennis after all these years. So just looking at it this way, it’s nothing really. It’s really just me and my mentality.” she said.
Prediction – Serena Williams in straight sets