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.