Saturday, September 5, 2020

Serena subdues Stephens, earns rematch vs. Sakkari

Serena Williams improved to 6-1 against Sloane Stephens and reached the round
of 16 in the U.S. Open. 2019 photo by Harjanto Sumali
   In a matchup of American former U.S. Open champions, third-seeded Serena Williams defeated 26th-seeded Sloane Stephens 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 today in the third round of the Grand Slam tournament in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Williams pounded 12 aces and Stephens none. Williams had 29 winners and 23 unforced errors to Stephens' 25 and 18, respectively.
   "I don't think she made any errors in the first set," Williams, who improved to 6-1 in the head-to-head series, said in an on-court interview. "She just was playing so clean. I just said, 'I don't want to lose in straight sets. OK, Serena, just get a game, get a game. Next thing I know, I won the second set, and I was like, OK, great.' "
   Williams, who will turn 39 on Sept. 26, won the last of her six U.S. Open singles titles in 2014. She has reached the last two finals in Flushing Meadows, losing to upstarts Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu in straight sets in an attempt to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. Williams also won the now-defunct Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
   Stephens, a 27-year-old Fresno, Calif., product now based in Florida, captured her only Grand Slam title in the 2017 U.S. Open. She also reached the 2018 French Open final, losing to Simona Halep.
   Williams, ranked eighth, is scheduled to face Greece's Maria Sakkari, seeded 15th and ranked 22nd, for the second consecutive tournament on Monday at a time to be announced (ESPN2). 
   Sakkari, the runner-up in the inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., in 2018, routed 22nd-seeded Amanda Anisimova, a 19-year-old American, 6-3, 6-1 in 55 minutes. Anisimova won her first professional title in the 2017 Sacramento (Calif.) Challenger at 15.
   Sakkari surprised Williams 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-1 in the third round of last week's Western & Southern Open in Flushing Meadows in their only previous meeting.
   Also today, unranked Tsvetana Pironkova, playing in her first tournament since Wimbledon in 2017 after starting a family, beat 18th-seeded Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-4, 6-1. Vekic advanced to the San Jose semifinals last summer.
   In the first featured night match, French veteran Alize Cornet beat seventh-seeded Madison Keys, the 2017 runner-up to Stephens at Flushing Meadows and champion of the last Bank of the West Classic, 7-6 (4), 3-2, retired (neck).
   In the men's draw, unseeded Vasek Pospisil of Canada ousted eighth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 7-5, 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. 
   Pospisil, ranked No. 94 after climbing to a career-high No. 25 in 2014, had back surgery in January 2019 and missed the first six months of the season. He won the Wimbledon doubles title in 2014 with American Jack Sock and advanced to the singles final in the 2017 San Francisco Challenger, falling to China's Ze Zhang.
  The 30-year-old Pospisil — one of three Canadian men in the round of 16 with 12th-seeded Denis Shapovalov, 21, and 15th-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime, 20 — had not advanced past the second round of a major since reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2015. 
   Pospisil will play 21st-seeded Alex de Minaur, a 21-year-old Australian who eliminated 11th-seeded Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-4, 0-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1. De Minaur leads the head-to-head series 2-0. 
   Frances Tiafoe, 22, dominated Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in a clash of unseeded players to become the only American man in the round of 16. 
   Tiafoe, who won the 2016 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger to crack the top 100 at age 18, will face third-seeded Daniil Medvedev, who lost a five-set epic to Rafael Nadal in last year's final
   Medvedev, a 24-year-old Russian who stands 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters), has not lost more than four games in a set in three matches this week. He is 2-0 against Tiafoe in tour-level events, including a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory in the first round of the Australian Open in January.  

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