Defending US Open champion and third seed Sloane Stephens came through a huge scare in the third day of action at Flushing Meadows, with the American rallying from a set down to progress.
Stephens was the heavy favorite coming into this match against qualifier Anhelina Kalinina, especially considering her solid opening round performance. However, the Ukrainian qualifier, ranked 134th in the world, proved to be an incredibly difficult opponent for the world number three to overcome.
It was the Ukrainian who took the first set, and she was just two games away from victory at one point, though it was Stephens who eventually prevailed, claiming a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 win in two hours and 49 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Stephens fights back to down Kalinina
Both Kalinina and Stephens were forced to save break point in their opening service games, though it was the Ukrainian who struck the first blow, breaking at 2-1 and consolidating for a 4-1 lead. The American was able to force herself back into contention, saving points for a double break and taking three games in a row to even up proceedings, though Kalinina held serve and then converted a third set point on the third seeds’ serve to take the opening set.
Stephens needed a strong response to dropping the opening set, and got just that as she broke twice early for a 3-0 lead, though three further breaks between the two saw Kalinina remain in touch at 3-4. The Ukrainian continued to apply pressure on Stephens and broke when the American served for the set at 5-4, though she herself wobbled to allow the defending champion to break, and the American made no mistake serving for the set a second time.
After a ten minute break due to the oppressive heat, both women were forced to save break points early on, though it was Stephens who broke through, breaking for a 2-1 lead and consolidating for 3-1. The American was playing by far her best tennis of the match, and though she fought hard, Kalinina succumbed under the pressure and was broken again down 2-4. The defending champion proceeded to serve out the match in fine style.
It was undoubtedly a tricky match for Stephens, who struggled at times, and it will not get any easier for her in the next round, with two-time US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka waiting in round three. Stephens beat the Belarusian in three sets in Miami earlier this season.