Serena survives Stephens scare to keep record bid alive

Serena Williams defeated Sloane Stephens 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 in an all-American third-round clash

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Serena Williams brought the ‘intensity’ to a fan-less US Open as he passed the Sloane Stephens test in the third round on Saturday. She defeated the 2017 champion 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 to keep her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title alive.

“It was intense, I have to say,” the 38-year-old Serena said after the match. “It always brings out the best in my fitness when I play Sloane.”

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Though Serena, with her daughter watching the match in the near-empty stands, struggled with her first serve in the opening set and committed 13 unforced errors, she tightened up her game thereafter. She dropped only one point one her first serve in the decider and ran away with 10 of the last 12 games.

Serena holds the record for the most number of singles Grand Slam titles in the Open Era, but is one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record tally of 24. Though she has made four finals since returning to the tour after childbirth, the American hasn’t been able to cross that final hurdle.

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She is once again carrying the burden of expectations at this year’s US Open, which is being played behind closed doors due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Every day, having ‘Serena’ on your back is a massive target for the tour, for press, for stress,” she said.

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“But as Billie Jean King said, ‘Pressure is a privilege.’ So I wouldn’t want it any other way. I just try to think about how fortunate I am to have been in this position.”

Serena will next face No 15 seed Maria Sakkari, who beat her at the Western & Southern Open only 10 days ago.

Thiem downs former champ Cilic

Dominic Thiem staved off a late challenge from 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic to win 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the US Open third round.

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“I think the quick start was more because of him,” said Thiem, who is the No 2 seed at the Open. “He had two very tough opening rounds, long matches.”

The Austrian is getting better with every match, and put on a solid performance against Cilic on Saturday evening. He survived five break points in the fourth set and capitalized on the only chance he had, in the sixth game, to edge into a crucial lead.

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Thiem, the 2020 Australian Open finalist, will take on young gun Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round.

Results

Men’s 3rd round
6-Matteo Berrettini d 30-Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-4, 6-2
10-Andrey Rublev d Salvatore Caruso 6-0, 6-4, 6-0
Frances Tiafoe d Marton Fucsovics 6-2, 6-3, 6-2
3-Daniil Medvedev d Jeffrey Wolf 6-3, 6-3, 6-2
Vasek Pospisil d 8-Roberto Bautista 7-5, 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
21-Alex De Minaur d 11-Karen Khachanov 6-4, 0-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
15-Felix Auger-Aliassime d Corentin Moutet 6-1, 6-0, 6-4
2-Dominic Thiem bt 31-Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3

Women’s 3rd round
Alize Cornet bt 7-Madison Keys 7-6 (4), 3-2 retired
Tsvetana Pironkova bt 18-Donna Vekic 6-4, 6-1
15-Maria Sakkari bt 22-Amanda Anisimova 6-3, 6-1
3-Serena Williams bt 26-Sloane Stephens 2-6, 6-2, 6-2
Victoria Azarenka d Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-2
20-Karolina Muchova d Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7)
16-Elise Mertens d Caty McNally 7-5, 6-1
2-Sofia Kenin bt 27-Ons Jabeur 7-6 (4), 6-3

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