Serena Williams vs. Sloane Stephens, US Open R3 Preview

2020 US OPEN – R3 preview + prediction: ??
?? (4) Serena Williams vs. ?? (26) Sloane Stephens

Serena Williams continues her quest for a 24th major title on Saturday with a blockbuster third round clash against Sloane Stephens. This will surprisingly be the first meeting between the pair in over 5 years, the first real test of the tournament for Serena Williams. Can Stephens spoil the party, or will Williams be too strong?

All eyes are on Serena Williams at Flushing Meadows as she continues to battle for her first Grand Slam title since the 2017 Australian Open. Williams has claimed a pair of straight set victories on route to the third round, a 7/5 6/3 win over Kristie Ahn, followed by a 6/2 6/4 triumph over Margarita Gasparyan, neither of those victories were overly convincing and there are still big questions marks surroundings Serena’s ability to go all the way in New York.

Stephens has also moved into the third round without dropping a set. The 2017 US Open champion cruised past Michaela Buzarnescu 6/3 6/3 in the opening round, followed by a 6/2 6/2 victory over Olga Govortsova. Stephens has struggled in 2020 but often finds a way to peak at major events. Stephens hasn’t won 3 matches in a row at a tournament since Roland Garros last year. We will learn a lot more about how Stephens is playing when she faces Williams, a step up in opposition compared to her previous opponents this week.

Williams leads the head-to-head record at 5-1. Williams has won the last 4 meetings between the pair, two of those matches went the distance, including their most recent match which took place at Roland Garros in 2015, Williams won that match 1/6 7/5 6/3.

I’m going to go for the upset here and side with Stephens. I believe Stephens has all the necessary weapons to trouble Williams. All of Serena’s losses at majors over the last few years have come against a similar type of opponent, a top level counter-puncher, Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, Bianca Andreescu, Naomi Osaka, Sofia Kenin and Wang Qiang. They all beat Williams in a similar fashion. They were all able to absorb the pace of Williams thanks to their fantastic movement, stick with Williams in neutral rallies, they all also had the ability to redirect power and hurt Williams by stretching her out wide and exposing her movement. Stephens has the perfect balance of fantastic movement and power behind her groundstrokes to win in a similar fashion. Williams hasn’t been impressive from the baseline since the tour restart, if Sloane can get into enough neutral rallies, she should be able to get the job done.

Prediction: Sloane Stephens to defeat Serena Williams in 3 sets
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Sloane Stephens vs. Carolina Garcia, CincyTennis R1 Preview

?? Western & Southern Open – R1 Preview
?? (wc) Sloane Stephens vs. ?? Caroline Garcia

An opening round battle between two former top 5 players at the Western & Southern Open sees Sloane Stephens come up against Caroline Garcia. Stephens and Garcia have followed similar downward spirals over the last few years, but both are undoubtedly top players on their day, who will prevail here?

Stephens made a typically disappointing start on her resumption to the tour a few weeks ago with a straight set opening round loss to Leylah Fernandez in Lexington. Perhaps being back at Flushing Meadows will inspire Stephens, the destination of her greatest result when she won the US Open back in 2017, a result that seems like a lifetime ago.

Garcia will be playing her first match back since the tour restart, her first official match in over 5 months. The Frenchwoman has spent the last few months training hard at the Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy, it will be interesting to see what type of level Garcia can produce here.

Garcia holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Stephens. The Frenchwoman won the most recent match between the pair, a 6/1 7/6 victory in Rome in 2018.

I’m going to side with Garcia here. Stephens was awful in her opening round match in Lexington and still seems to be in a bad place on court. Expect a rejuvenated Garcia to be too strong for the sluggish American. If Garcia remains patient from the baseline, she should be able to pick her moments to move forward and punish Stephens who has a tendency to drop back behind the baseline when lacking confidence, which is the case at the moment. An attacking Garcia is the more dangerous prospect.

Prediction: Caroline Garcia to defeat Sloane Stephens in 3 sets

Sloane Stephens vs. Jelena Ostapenko, Eastbourne R2 Preview

Nature Valley International, Eastbourne R2
?? (7) Sloane Stephens vs. ?? Jelena Ostapenko

Two Grand Slam champions will collide in a blockbuster second round clash at the Nature Valley International on Tuesday as the 7th seeded Sloane Stephens takes on Jelena Ostapenko in Eastbourne. Stephens and Ostapenko are two of the most unpredictable players on the WTA tour, both are capable of playing top level tennis but both can also go missing from time-to-time.

Sloane Stephens will be in action for the first time since her disappointing quarter-final loss to Johanna Konta at Roland Garros earlier this month. Grass is traditionally Stephens least preferred surface, the American has nothing to lose over the coming weeks as she has no points to defend given she was beaten in the opening round at Wimbledon last year in the only match she played on the grass. Perhaps the lack of pressure will work in the American’s favour.

Conversely, Jelena Ostapenko is much more comfortable on the grass. Ostapenko arrives in Eastbourne fresh from a quarter-final showing in Birmingham, Ostapenko’s Birmingham campaign did end quite sadly as she squandered 5 match points and a set and a break lead to lose to Petra Martic in the quarter-finals, nevertheless it was a decent week. The pressure is on Ostapenko over the next few weeks as she has to defend semi-final points at Wimbledon.

It was Sloane Stephens who won the only previous match between the pair, a 7-6 6-1 win over the Latvian in the Miami Open final last year. Can Stephens maintain her perfect record over Ostapenko in Eastbourne?

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Sloane Stephens vs. Johanna Konta, Roland Garros QF Preview

???? Roland Garros, QF Preview
?? (7) Sloane Stephens vs. ?? (26) Johanna Konta

Sloane Stephens and Johanna Konta will renew hostilities when they go head-to-head at the quarter-final stage at Roland Garros. This will be the third career meeting between the pair, interestingly it was Johanna Konta who won both of those matches, both earlier this year. Nevertheless, it is the American who heads into this match as the slight favourite, last year’s runner-up is the highest seed left in the bottom half of the draw and will fancy her chances of reaching back-to-back finals in Paris.

Johanna Konta of Great Britain in action during her fourth-round match at the 2019 Roland Garros Grand Slam tennis tournament

The 7th seeded Sloane Stephens hasn’t always had things her own way on rote to the final 8 in Paris. Stephens overcame strong late resistance in all 3 of her matches in the first week of the event. Stephens managed to escape with straight set wins over Misaki Doi and Sara Sorribes Tormo but was not so fortunate against Polona Hercog where she failed to serve out the match before eventually claiming a 6-3 5-7 6-4 victory. The 2017 US Open champion produced her best performance of the tournament at the round of 16 stage where she comfortably beat Garbine Muguruza 6-4 6-3 to announce herself as a genuine contender at Roland Garros.

Johanna Konta arrives in Paris having never won a main draw match at Roland Garros, Konta had previously lost 4 times at the opening round stage. However, Konta did arrives in Paris in great form having recently reached the Rome final and has continued that strong form in Paris. Konta broke her Paris duck with a straight set win over Antonia Lottner before battling past Lauren Davis in 3 sets. Konta produced a couple of clinical performances to secure a spot in the final 8, beating Viktoria Kuzmova and Donna Vekic in straight sets. To be fair, Konta has had a favourable draw, Stephens will provide her biggest test yet in the next round, an opponent Konta has actually had recent success against.

Konta holds a perfect 2-0 record over Stephens. The pair met for the first time in Brisbane at the start of the year, Konta won 6-4 6-3, more recently Konta prevailed 6-7 6-4 6-1 on the clay in Rome. Nevertheless, facing Stephens at a Grand Slam is likely to be a much tougher test for Konta, can the American make it third time lucky against the Brit?

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Sloane Stephens vs. Polona Hercog, Roland Garros R3 Preview

???? Roland Garros, R3 Preview
?? (7) Sloane Stephens vs. ?? Polona Hercog

Sloane Stephens will be back in action on day 6 at Roland Garros where she meets Polona Hercog with a place in the fourth round up for grabs. Stephens has looked determined thus far in Paris, the 2018 runner-up is yet to a drop a set and will enter this third round clash as a strong favourite.

Sloane Stephens of the United States in action during her second-round match at the 2019 Roland Garros Grand Slam tennis tournament

Sloane Stephens was challenged in each of her first couple of matches this tournament but was strong enough to get through in straight sets. Stephens started the event with a 6-3 7-6 win over Misaki Doi before defeating Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-1 7-6. On each occasion Stephens was seemingly on track for a straight set win before having to overcome strong late resistance from her opponents. The sings are good that Stephens was focused enough to get through a few tough situations.

Polona Hercog is through to the third round of a Grand Slam for just the third time in her career, the second time at Roland Garros. Hercog is in some of the best form of her career at the moment having recently won her third career title in Lugano. Hercog started her Roland Garros campaign with an extremely hard-fought 4-6 6-2 8-6 victory against the 32nd seeded Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The Slovenian came through another long battle to secure a spot in the round of 32 as she beat Jennifer Brady 6-3 6-7 6-4. Hercog will need to take her game to another level if she is to get past Stephens, an opponent she has struggled against in the past.

Sloane Stephens holds a perfect 3-0 head-to-head record over Hercog, all 3 of those matches ended in straight sets, Stephens won the most recent match between the pair 6-2 7-6 in Madrid last month.

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Sloane Stephens vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo, Roland Garros R2 Preview

???? Roland Garros, R2 Preview
?? (7) Sloane Stephens vs. ?? Sara Sorribes Tormo

Sloane Stephens continues her 2019 Roland Garros campaign on Wednesday with a potentially tricky clash against Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo. Paris has been Sloane’s most consistent Grand Slam over her career, the American will be hoping to go one step better than her runner-up appearance last year as she takes aim at capturing a second major title.

Sloane Stephens of the United States during practice with Serena Williams at the 2019 Roland Garros Grand Slam tennis tournament

Sloane Stephens was made to work surprisingly hard to come through her opening round match in Paris against Misaki Doi. Stephens overcame a second set slump to claim a 6-3 7-6 win over Doi in an hour and 33 minutes. Sloane’s form leading into this event has been typically erratic but one thing Sloane has generally managed to do throughout her career is peak at the majors which makes her one of the contenders this year at Roland Garros, especially given her strength on the red dirt.

Sara Sorribes Tormo advanced to the second round in Paris for the first time thanks to a 6-1 5-7 6-2 win over Alison Van Uytvanck. Sorribes Tormo’s win over Van Uytvanck was a big one, just her second main draw win at a Grand Slam and it was not against a pushover, Van Uytvanck is a former quarter-finalist in Paris. Sorribes Tormo is a gutsy competitor and will relish the opportunity of playing Stephens in Paris, a familiar foe.

Stephens and Sorribes Tormo know what to expect from each other heading into this clash. The pair went head-to-head in an epic scrap earlier this year on the green clay of Charleston, Stephens won 7-6 7-6 in a match that lasted over 2 and a half hours. Stephens will be hoping to make lighter work of the Spaniard on this occasion, can she do it?

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Sloane Stephens vs. Misaki Doi, Roland Garros R1 Preview

???? Roland Garros, R1 Preview
?? (7) Sloane Stephens vs. ?? Misaki Doi

2018 runner-up Sloane Stephens starts her 2019 Roland Garros campaign against Japan’s Misaki Doi. Stephens arrives in Paris in mediocre form but that is frequently the case for Sloane heading into a major, she certainly has the ability to flick the switch and play her best when it matters, plus Paris has been her most consistent major over the years. Stephens looms as one of the main contenders.

Sloane Stephens of the United States during practice at the 2019 Roland Garros Grand Slam tennis tournament

Stephens did receive a confidence boost in a semi-final showing at the Mutua Madrid Open earlier this month. Stephens beat a couple of quality opponents on route to the final 4 before succumbing to the eventual champion Kiki Bertens in straight sets. Most recently Stephens suffered an opening round loss to Johanna Konta in Rome. Stephens has won more matches in Paris than any other Grand Slam, a runner-up last year, the goal for Stephens will be to go one step further in 2019.

Misaki Doi’s record in Paris is not so good. Doi has only ever won the 1 main draw match at Roland Garros from 6 appearances. The odds are stacked against Doi who brings poor from into the event. Doi has not won a match on clay this year and arrives in Paris fresh from an opening round loss in Nuremburg last week at the hands of Tamara Zidansek. Winning is something Doi has really struggled to do over the last few years.

This will be the first career meeting between Stephens and Doi, will the result be as one-sided as the odds suggest?

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Sloane Stephens vs. Taylor Townsend, Australian Open R1 Preview

?? Australian Open, R1 Preview
?? (5) Sloane Stephens vs. ?? Taylor Townsend

Sloane Stephens is the great unknown heading into the 2019 Australian Open. The 2017 US Open champion begins her Melbourne Park campaign with an opening round match-up against Taylor Townsend. At her best, Stephens is a genuine contender for the title, however, on current form she is no guarantee to get through this potentially tough first round match with Townsend.

Sloane Stephens of the United States in action during the first round of the 2019 Sydney International WTA Premier tennis tournament

Stephens has made a typically lackluster start to the season. Stephens started the year in Brisbane where she looked lethargic in a straight set loss to Johanna Konta. Stephens fought harder in Sydney, the American came from a set down to beat Ekaterina Alexandrova in a final set tiebreak in the first round but was unceremoniously dumped from the tournament by Yulia Putintseva in the second round. Stephens led Putintseva by a set and 5-3 before being forced to a deciding set where she did not win a single game.

Taylor Townsend will be searching for her first main draw victory at Melbourne Park on Monday when she takes on the 5th seed. Townsend has only played 1 match in 2019, a decent showing but a loss nevertheless. Townsend was beaten in 3 tight sets at the opening round stage in Auckland by Barbora Strycova.

This will be the first career meeting between Stephens and Townsend.

Which Sloane Stephens will show up to Melbourne Park?

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Sloane Stephens vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova, Sydney R1 Preview

? Sydney International, R1 Preview
?? (4) Sloane Stephens vs. ?? (Q) Ekaterina Alexandrova

Sloane Stephens continues her search for a much needed win in Australia when she takes on Russian qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova in the opening round of the Sydney International. Sloane Stephens has not won a match in Australia since a first round win in Hobart way back in 2015, she would like to change that in Sydney before heading into the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne next week.

Sloane Stephens of the United States in action during her first-round match at the 2019 Brisbane International WTA Premier tennis tournament

Stephens started her 2019 campaign with a disappointing straight set loss to Johanna Konta in Brisbane last week. Stephens looked very rusty in Brisbane last week, she looked sluggish and uninspired. Stephens has been in Sydney for a decent amount of time thanks to her early round exit in Brisbane, it will be interesting to see what type of level she bring to this match, from the outside it seems like an important one for her.

Ekaterina Alexandrova has made a decent start to the season. Alexandrova started her season in Shenzhen last week where she beat Dalila Jakupovic in straight sets before succumbing to the eventual champion: Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets. Alexandrova made her way through the qualifying draw in Sydney with ease, the Russian beat Stefanie Voegele in straight sets before benefiting from the retirement of Johanna Konta early in their match.

Alexandrova is a dangerous opponent on her day, can the talented young Russian take down the 4th seed?

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Sloane Stephens vs. Johanna Konta, Brisbane R1 Preview

Brisbane International, R1 Preview
?? (3) Sloane Stephens vs. ?? Johanna Konta

Sloane Stephens and Johanna Konta will go head-to-head for the first time when they meet in an exciting opening round clash in Brisbane. It will be interesting to see how this match-up pans out, a match-up that features an extreme contrast in styles. Konta has a powerful, aggressive game but is very mechanical whilst Stephens has easy power and is a supreme athlete.

Sloane Stephens has struggled during the Australian summer in recent times and will no doubt be focusing on having a great month down under in 2019. Stephens was very inconsistent in 2018, her best is extremely good but she seems to pick and choose when to produce that level. Brisbane is an important tournament for Stephens to gain momentum and confidence heading into the first Grand Slam of the year.

Johanna Konta of Great Britain practices ahead of the 2019 Brisbane International WTA Premier tennis tournament

Johanna Konta also had a very inconsistent 2018 season. Unlike Stephens, Konta has started well over the last few years. Konta has made it to the quarter-final stage at the Australian Open in 2 of the last 3 years. The Sydney-born Brit sees Australia as a second home and her game is well suited to the quick hard courts in Brisbane where she made the quarter-finals last year.

Will the third seeded Stephens survive a tough opening round match-up?

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