Serena Williams rallied past Sloane Stephens 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the U.S. Open fourth round on Saturday, keeping alive her latest bid for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.
Williams, trying to tie Margaret Court‘s record, won 10 of the last 12 games after struggling with her serve in the first set. She avoided what would have been her earliest U.S. Open exit since her debut in 1998 at age 16.
“It was intense,” said the third seed Williams, who won her fifth straight match with the 2017 U.S. Open champion Stephens in their first duel in five years. “We always have some really incredible matches. It brings out the best in my fitness when I play Sloane.”
Williams advanced to a Monday match with No. 15 Maria Sakkari of Greece. Sakkari beat Williams in three sets at last week’s Western & Southern Open, also held at the U.S. Open grounds in New York.
No. 2 Sofia Kenin is a potential semifinal opponent. No. 4 Naomi Osaka is the top seed remaining in the other half of the draw.
Since returning from childbirth in 2018, Williams lost each of the last two finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Daughter Olympia, who turned 3 on Tuesday, was among the few spectators on Saturday.
“I hope that she saw her momma fighting,” Williams said in an on-court interview. “I don’t think she was paying attention, between you and me. She might have been playing with some princesses upstairs.”
Stephens, the No. 26 seed, entered the Open with a 2020 record of 1-7. The French Open has been her strongest Slam. That tournament begins in two weeks.
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