One of the talked-about rivalries lived up to it's expectations by producing a match full of intrigue which World No. 1 Serena Williams managed to clinch with a hard fought 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 win. Bidding to become just the 8th player to ever beat both the Williams' sisters in the same tournament(last happened at the U.S. Open 2009 by Kim Clijsters), Sloane Stephens got off to a magnificent start, but couldn't keep the confidence going in a tightly contested 3rd set. This match encapsulated why Sloane is touted as 'the next big thing' in women's tennis; showcasing her natural athleticism, easy power from the baseline and the way she moves her opponent around the court.
In front of a paltry crowd on Philippe Chatrier, Sloane absolutely slaughtered Serena, picking apart her game point by point, and was rewarded with a quick 6-1 set win. This set was more about Serena was playing badly that Sloane playing well, and that's further evident in the number of errors she hit(15 unforced errors in comparison to Sloane's 2 unforced errors). However, not to take any credit away from Stephens; she was patient, consistent in rallies and waited for her chance to attack. There were a few notable rallies in this set, including this one below.
According to Chrissie Evert, Sloane was playing very 'basic', just making sure she loops the ball in, instead of really going for her shots. One thing that impressed this writer in this set was that Sloane's attitude seems to have undergone a major change: she had a good mindset today, even applauding good points by Serena. Nick Saviano seems to be having a very positive effect on her.
Serena mounted a successful comeback in the second set, finally managing to win it 7-5. It was a fun set to watch, with magnificent cross-court rallies and 'not so flat' shots from Serena. At 3-3 in the set, Sloane managed to save four break points(which says a lot about her mental strength) before finally succumbing to Serena's forehand. This long game was the turning point in the match, after that Serena seemed to have got back in her groove and seemed much more relaxed and confident. Throughout the set, Sloane was moving Serena around court, bringing her to the net and mixing things up, but couldn't capitalise when it was needed.
In the 3rd set, Serena showed the world why she's number one. Fresh off the momentum of the last set, she completely dominated play. Not someone to give up so easily though, Stephens hit some fantastic rallies that even got Saviano to fist pump! However, after a great game at 4-3, Serena didn't look back and sealed the match with a breathtaking display of sheer power.
The next player who stands between Serena Williams' bid for a 20th Grand Slam championship is Italian clay-court specialist Sara Errani(World No. 17) who awaits her in the quarterfinals.