Serena Williams recovered from a poor start to defeat a game Sloane Stephens 2-6 6-2 6-2 and book her spot in the fourth round of the US Open on Saturday.

It took time for Williams to get going on Arthur Ashe Stadium as a mixture of poor timing, particularly on the backhand, and fantastic variety from Stephens saw the 2017 champion take a deserved lead.

But Williams, once again attempting to level Margaret Court's overall record of 24 grand slams, remained calm, upped the ante and, by the time she broke for a 4-2 lead in the second, Stephens never looked like recovering.

The third seed, a six-time champion in New York, won 10 of the final 12 games and can now look ahead to for a fourth-round tie with Maria Sakkari.

Early doors it appeared more likely Williams would be preparing her suitcase as the American great's timing on her groundstrokes was left wanting.

Stephens consistently stretched the play wide with Williams' movement nowhere near its peak and a couple of poor backhands set up a double-break 5-2 lead before the opening set was ruthlessly served out to love.

As has so often been the case, though, Williams shook it off and found another gear, triumphing in a 16-shot rally to break for 4-2 before the errors crept into Stephens' game, which had previously been so clean.

In no time the match was level at a set apiece as the momentum shifted wildly into Williams' favour and, although Stephens valiantly fought off three break points, she made the breakthrough when her opponent went long to open up a 3-1 lead in the decider.

From there it was little more than a training exercise for Williams, who wrapped proceedings up in one hour and 43 minutes when Stephens went long from the baseline.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN  

Williams [3] bt Stephens [26] 2-6 6-2 6-2

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS   

Williams – 29/23
Stephens – 25/18

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS   

Williams – 12/3
Stephens – 0/1

BREAK POINTS WON    

Williams – 4/10
Stephens – 2/5

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE   

Williams – 60
Stephens – 79

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE   

Williams – 78/39
Stephens – 60/53

TOTAL POINTS   

Williams – 81
Stephens – 72

Naomi Osaka survived a test to reach the US Open last 16, while Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova also won on Friday.

Osaka, the 2018 champion in New York, was pushed before getting past Ukrainian teenager Marta Kostyuk.

The top half of the women's draw is packed with seeds as Kerber and Kvitova were among those advancing at Flushing Meadows.

Petra Martic, the eighth seed, also booked her spot in the fourth round.

 

OSAKA GETS THROUGH TEST

Osaka, the fourth seed and two-time grand slam winner, battled past Kostyuk 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-2.

The Japanese star had 30 winners and 38 unforced errors before advancing in two hours, 33 minutes.

Osaka's left leg was again heavily strapped, but the 22-year-old insisted she was feeling fine.

"I felt like I was moving well," she said. "It could be better, but I think for a three-set match, the amount of movement that I did, and the fact that I felt like I could have kept going if I really needed to is definitely a good sign."

Awaiting Osaka in the fourth round is Anett Kontaveit after the Estonian 14th seed powered past Magda Linette 6-3 6-2.

 

KERBER, KVITOVA KEEP WINNING

For the first time since winning the tournament in 2016, Kerber is into the fourth round.

The German 17th seed was too good for Ann Li 6-3 6-4 in just 76 minutes.

"I came here and I have no idea where I am, to be honest. Still, I mean, I had three good matches, also close matches. Every match was a little bit different," Kerber said.

"But now the second week and the fourth round, I mean, you know, I'm not thinking too much ahead. It's more like I have a day off tomorrow. Then I have the next match. This is more my focus.

"I'm really trying to staying here as well in the bubble, also mentally and getting ready for the next match."

Up next for Kerber is Jennifer Brady, the American 28th seed having recorded a 6-3 6-3 win over Caroline Garcia.

A two-time US Open quarter-finalist, Kvitova advanced after a 6-4 6-3 victory over Jessica Pegula on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

MARTIC CONTINUES RUN

A quarter-finalist at the French Open last year, Martic matched a career best thanks to a 6-3 6-3 win over Varvara Gracheva.

The Croatian is into the fourth round in New York for just the second time, having also achieved the feat last year.

She will meet Yulia Putintseva, who overcame Aliaksandra Sasnovich 3-6 6-2 6-1.

Serena Williams is a self-described perfectionist and as the American superstar bids to win a record-equalling 24th grand slam, she is trying to silence her inner critic.

Williams advanced to the US Open third round on Thursday after the third seed defeated Margarita Gasparyan 6-2 6-4 behind closed doors at Flushing Meadows in New York.

Yet to win a grand slam since claiming the 2017 Australian Open, having lost four major finals following her last success at Melbourne Park, Williams produced an improved performance against Gasparyan but the former world number one was still not completely satisfied.

With such lofty expectations and pressure growing as she stands on the brink of tying Margaret Court's long-standing record, Williams – who had 16 unforced errors compared to 24 in the opening round – told reporters: "The only thing that gets me flustered is really me, like, because I always feel like I'm not winning every point.

"I have been going back and looking at me and that's not what I normally do. Usually I'm just calm. And I just think with the pressure and everything that I felt, I felt like I just needed to be perfect. I always feel like I'm not perfect unless I'm perfect. That's not a fun way to live your career and live your life.

"So it doesn't matter if I lose 20 points in a row now. I just feel like, it's okay, it's fine, I'm here, and I'm happy. I get to play tennis after all these years. So just looking at it this way – it's nothing really. It's really just me and my mental."

"I think in general I always feel joy when I win. But that's also unrealistic, because you can't win every single match every time, and that's kind of the pressure I put on myself," the 38-year-old continued. "It's just completely unrealistic.

"I had to take a step back and just really say, Okay, Serena, no matter who you are or what you are, no one has ever done that. I mean, I think [unbeaten boxing legend] Floyd Mayweather did, but dang.

"So I guess I could have. But, no, and then I just think how I'm so grateful to be out here and how much fun that I have had, and I just needed to get back into that. Once I realised that, it was a little bit better. It's been a little bit better."

The six-time US Open champion, who will next meet 2017 winner and countrywoman Sloane Stephens, added: "I'm a perfectionist. And I remember some of my earliest memories were going, practising, I must have been, like, two or three or four, maybe four, and I was going to school and doing the alphabet and it wasn't perfect. I just stayed up and kept erasing it until I got it perfect.

"Then I would cry and then I would erase it and redo it and redo it. I remember I woke up the next day and I didn't finish my homework because I kept erasing it. That's been really the story of my life.

"It's so, so crazy because my daughter does the exact same thing… it is just something that's innate, and I just always have done. It's, like, Okay, Serena, stop. Perfection is – only Jesus was perfect, so just stop."

Serena Williams showed signs of improvement en route to the US Open third round as Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin took down Leylah Fernandez.

Former world number one and third seed Williams prevailed in a tricky test against Margarita Gasparyan in straight sets in New York on Thursday.

Countrywoman and second seed Kenin contained Canadian teenager Fernandez behind closed doors at Flushing Meadows.

It was not good news for 10th seed Muguruza, who was sent packing by unranked Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova.

 

SERENA WINS THROUGH

Williams continued her quest for a record-equalling 24th grand slam after defeating Russian Gasparyan 6-2 6-4 to set up a showdown with 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens.

The 38-year-old Williams hit 27 winners and just 16 unforced errors, an improvement on her numbers in the opening round, under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights.

Williams, who has not won a slam since the 2017 Australian Open, will next meet Stephens after the American 26th seed eased past Olga Govortsova 6-2 6-2.

KENIN SEES OFF FERNANDEZ

Kenin advanced to the third round of her home slam for the fourth year in a row thanks to a 6-4 6-3 victory over Fernandez.

World number four Kenin did not face a break point in a contest lasting one hour, 21 minutes.

After firing 19 winners and three aces, Kenin will play Ons Jabeur – who took down Kaia Kanepi 7-6 (10-8) 6-0.

MUGURUZA STUNNED

Muguruza's US Open campaign came to an end in the second round, sensationally upstaged 7-5 6-3 by Pironkova, who is playing her first tournament since Wimbledon in 2017.

Australian Open runner-up and two-time slam champion Muguruza was serving for the first set when the Spaniard started to unravel.

Pironkova, who gave birth to a son during her time away from the WTA Tour, took control at the end of a tight first set and never looked back.

"I'm not going to hide, I didn't expect my first tournament to be so good and to play so well. It's welcome! That's why I came back, for these matches and these stages," Pironkova said after winning 93 per cent of her first serves.

 

AZARENKA ROLLS ON

Former world number one and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka topped fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-1 6-3.

A US Open finalist in 2012 and 2013, Azarenka is in fine form after winning the Western & Southern Open last week.

And Azarenka is now just one victory away from her first second-week appearance at Flushing Meadows in five years.

Meanwhile, seventh seed Madison Keys also progressed to the third round.

Serena Williams produced an improved performance as the third seed moved into the third round of the US Open after defeating Margarita Gasparyan 6-2 6-4 in New York.

Williams – in pursuit of a record-equalling 24th grand slam title – was not at her free-flowing best against countrywoman Kristie Ahn on Tuesday, tallying 24 unforced errors at Flushing Meadows.

But the former world number one was closer to her best on Thursday, reducing that count to 16 unforced errors to go with 27 winners as she set up an all-American showdown with 2017 winner Sloane Stephens.

Yet to add to her slam honours since winning the 2017 Australian Open, having lost four major finals since that last success at Melbourne Park, Williams made a fast start under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights.

Williams raced out to a 3-0 lead against Russia's Gasparyan, who continued to fight as she earned a break point in the fifth game, though it was emphatically saved by the former.

American superstar Williams then broke again for a 5-1 lead, but Gasparyan stayed alive by breaking to love in the very next game, though it only delayed the inevitable as the six-time US Open champion closed out the set on her opponent's serve.

Gasparyan refused to go away, the world number 117 continuing to play her shots against Williams, who went up a break in the second set.

Williams performed when it mattered most in a tense, 10-minute sixth game as she converted a fifth break-point chance, but the 38-year-old dropped serve as Gasparyan eventually levelled at 4-4.

Willing herself on in the closing stages, Williams produced a gutsy hold in the ninth game before breaking to 15 to book her spot in the next round, while claiming a record-extending 103rd US Open match victory.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN  

Williams [3] bt Gasparyan 6-2 6-4

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS   

Williams – 27/16
Gasparyan – 16/22

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS   

Williams – 7/5
Gasparyan – 1/2

BREAK POINTS WON    

Williams – 6/12
Gasparyan – 3/6

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE   

Williams – 58
Gasparyan – 55

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE   

Williams – 62/48
Gasparyan – 51/38

TOTAL POINTS   

Williams – 72
Gasparyan – 58

Kristina Mladenovic hit out at her "atrocious" US Open conditions following an incredible second-round collapse, saying she felt like a prisoner or criminal after coming into contact with Benoit Paire.

Mladenovic had to enter what she described as "a bubble within the bubble" at Flushing Meadows after practicing and playing cards with compatriot men's star Paire, who tested positive for coronavirus.

The 27-year-old looked to have adjusted well to the strange setting as she beat Hailey Baptiste in the first round and then led Varvara Gracheva 6-1 5-1 in the second.

But Mladenovic was remarkably beaten 1-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-0, losing her way completely in the decider after allowing Gracheva to recover in the second set.

The 2015 US Open quarter-finalist pulled no punches after the match as she said she lost "partly because of the conditions" and revealed her regret at entering the tournament due to the way she felt she had been treated due to her association with Paire.

"The third set, I can't describe how I feel. It's distress, really," Mladenovic said. "We should sit down and make a list of what we are going through.

"It's not even acceptable what they do. The third set is a total collapse. I'm going to stop there, I don't know what to tell you.

"How can I tell you [the details]? Even to take a step to the right, they have to ask permission. We have no freedom of movement, no identity. I have the impression that we are prisoners, criminals.

"For any movement, they have to ask if we have the right to do it, even though we are tested every day and have had 30 negative tests. It's abominable, the conditions are atrocious.

"If I had known that playing cards for 40 minutes, with a mask, with a player who tested positive and then finally negative, would have these consequences, I would never have played this tournament."

Top seed Karolina Pliskova crashed out of the US Open, while Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova advanced on Wednesday.

A former finalist in New York, Pliskova bowed out in the second round at Flushing Meadows.

It came on what was a mixed day for the seeds in the women's draw at the grand slam, which is being played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the likes of Osaka, Kvitova and Angelique Kerber progressed without dropping a set.

 

PLISKOVA CRASHES OUT

Runner-up in 2016, Pliskova fell to Caroline Garcia 6-1 7-6 (7-2) after one hour, 33 minutes.

Garcia, who reached fourth in the world rankings in 2018, produced 30 winners and just 17 unforced errors in an impressive win.

"In the second set I had set point. That was definitely one ball I could make. I had second serve on my forehand," Pliskova said.

"Maybe I should just play rally. I tried to go for it. It was a little bit windy on the court. I think she played amazing set and a half. Of course, I got my chances later in the second set. I didn't play good, so that's it."

Garcia will next face 28th seed Jennifer Brady, who thrashed CiCi Bellis 6-1 6-2 in just 51 minutes.

 

OSAKA, KVITOVA AND KERBER MOVE THROUGH

Osaka, the 2018 champion and fourth seed, was far too strong for Camila Giorgi in a 6-1 6-2 victory.

The Japanese two-time grand slam winner capitalised on a wayward display from Giorgi, who finished with 24 unforced errors.

"Just playing Camila, I haven't played her in a while, but I know that she goes for things," Osaka said. "For me it's really helpful mentally just because I know she's capable of finishing points.

"It gives me motive to play better, so she's not able to hit winners."

Awaiting Osaka in the third round is Marta Kostyuk after the Ukrainian teenager eliminated 31st seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Kvitova, the Czech sixth seed, was tested before getting past Kateryna Kozlova 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.

Meanwhile, 17th seed Kerber beat Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-3 7-6 (8-6) in an all-German affair.

 

MLADENOVIC IN EPIC COLLAPSE

Kristina Mladenovic looked set for an easy passage into the third round against Russian Varvara Gracheva.

Mladenovic led 6-1 5-1 before an incredible collapse saw her beaten in three sets.

Gracheva saved four match points in the second set before claiming a 1-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-0 victory.

Mladenovic was one of seven seeds to fall on Wednesday, with Dayana Yastremska, Alison Riske, Elena Rybakina and Marketa Vondrousova joining Pliskova and Sevastova in exiting.

Andy Murray may have kept Serena Williams waiting in New York, but the 23-time grand slam champion said she was "rooting" for her former doubles partner in his epic five-set comeback at the US Open.

Prior to Williams beating Kristie Ahn in straight sets on Tuesday, Murray needed almost five hours to get past Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 on Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows.

In his first singles grand slam match since the 2019 Australian Open due to hip surgery and the coronavirus pandemic, former world number one and three-time major champion Murray rallied to stun his Japanese opponent in the first round.

While Williams' scheduled match was pushed back, the American superstar hailed Murray after the pair teamed up in the mixed doubles at last year's Wimbledon.

"Usually when you're waiting for a match, someone is down two sets, you root for the person that's ahead so you can get on the court and get off," Williams told reporters.

"I was rooting for Andy the whole time. I really wanted him to win. Gosh, when he was down in the third set, I was like, All right. I was just rooting for him so hard.

"I saw him give the racquet to his trainer. There's Andy, he plans on playing five sets here. I was really happy for him.

"I love his grit. I've always loved that, way before we played doubles. I always said he reminds me a lot of myself. I'm just a big fan.

"It was really good because I know what it's like to be down, I know what it's like to be injured, I know what it's like to be counted out. I felt like it was a real gutsy win for him and I was really happy."

Williams – without a major title since winning the 2017 Australian Open – started her latest bid for a 24th grand slam crown with a 7-5 6-3 victory over fellow American Ahn.

The third seed and six-time US Open champion also broke the record for most singles wins (102) in the tournament's history, surpassing Chris Evert.

"In a weird way I feel like every time I come here I'm being told I broke another record," Williams said. "I felt like I had something last year. Maybe it was a tie for Chris Evert.

"But it's cool. I don't think I appreciate it enough, which is unfortunate. But I'm in the middle of a grand slam, so it's not the time to be focused for me on records when I'm thinking about winning a tournament."

This year's US Open is a slam like no other, played behind closed doors and with strict measures in place due to COVID-19.

"I think what's most important about this event taking place is just the spirit," the 38-year-old added. "Sport has been gone for so long, particularly tennis. We missed two grand slams. The US Open is the first major tennis event since Australian Open.

"The morale can be really low in the world with everything that's going on. Sometimes you just want to take your mind off. People have been doing that for generations through sport.

"That's one of the reasons I was so supportive of the US Open. I felt like it was such a good time to get back out there for athletes and for fans to kind of just disconnect and be a fan, and for athletes to do what they do best."

Serena Williams started her latest bid for a 24th grand slam crown with a hard-fought win over Kristie Ahn in the opening round of the US Open.

Former world number one Williams has been stuck on 23 slam titles since winning the 2017 Australian Open, losing four major finals since that last success at Melbourne Park.

But in pursuit of equalling Margaret Court's record, six-time US Open champion and third seed Williams made a winning start in New York, where the American superstar overcame countrywoman Ahn 7-5 6-3 on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Williams will next face Margarita Gasparyan for a spot in the third round after breaking the record for most singles wins (102) in US Open history.

In a slam like no other, played behind closed doors at Flushing Meadows and with strict measures amid the coronavirus pandemic, Williams – in her longest drought without winning a slam since 1999 – found herself in early trouble on Tuesday.

World number 96 Ahn opened up a 2-0 lead in the opening set, buoyed by Williams' struggles at the Western & Southern Open, where the 38-year-old capitulated against Maria Sakkari in the last 16.

Williams, though, fought back to level the set and fended off a break point in the ninth game to push ahead 5-4.

Working Williams around the court, Ahn refused to go away and hit some big shots but her record-seeking opponent stood tall when it mattered most, using her experience to break to 15 in the 12th game to close out a challenging opener.

Just like the first set, Ahn built a 2-0 cushion after breaking in the opening game but that is as good as it got for the 28-year-old, who was powerless to stop Williams reeling off five successive games and six of the last seven en route to the second round.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN  

Williams [3] bt Ahn 7-5 6-3

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS   

Williams – 28/24
Ahn – 12/24

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS   

Williams – 13/3
Ahn – 2/6

BREAK POINTS WON    

Williams – 4/6
Ahn – 2/3

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE   

Williams – 62
Ahn – 57

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE   

Williams – 85/38
Ahn – 56/50

TOTAL POINTS   

Williams – 70
Ahn – 53

Carla Suarez Navarro has been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and will undergo six months of chemotherapy.

Former world number six Suarez Navarro last week withdrew from the US Open due to health reasons.

The 31-year-old Spaniard announced last December that the 2020 season would be her last on the WTA Tour.

In a video posted on her official Twitter account on Tuesday, Suarez Navarro said: "Hi everyone, just wanted to let you know that a few days ago I have been diagnosed with lymphoma. It's Hodgkin lymphoma. I'll need to go through six months of chemotherapy.

"I'm fine and calm at the moment, willing to face whatever comes."

The accompanying tweet read: "I have to face a complicated reality. It is time to accept it and try to move forward relying on medical advice. Always with positivity in the face of adversity.

"Patience and self-belief guided me through my career. Not the easiest rival to deal with. I'll need my true best."

Former US Open champion Naomi Osaka was pushed to three sets in the opening round, while top seed Karolina Pliskova also made it through on day one.

Osaka – who was crowned queen of Flushing Meadows in 2018 – was tested by fellow Japanese player Misaki Doi under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights on Monday.

Pliskova saw off Anhelina Kalinina in the behind-closed-doors grand slam amid the coronavirus pandemic in New York.

However, American sensation Coco Gauff fell at the first hurdle.

 

OSAKA DISPATCHES DOI

Japanese star Osaka kicked off her bid to win a second US Open title with a 6-2 5-7 6-2 victory in the night session.

Osaka – the fourth seed – was challenged by Doi but the former world number one came through in two hours, two minutes.

In her first match since withdrawing from the Western & Southern Open final due to a hamstring injury, Osaka showed no ill effects – hitting 25 winners and 38 unforced errors while converting five of 11 break-point opportunities.

Next up for the 2019 Australian Open champion is Camila Giorgi, who outlasted Alison Van Uytvanck 2-6 6-1 7-5.

 

PLISKOVA OUTCLASSES KALININA

The 2016 US Open runner-up made it past the first round by beating Ukrainian Kalinina 6-4 6-0.

Pliskova was in command at 4-1 in the first set, but lost the next three games and had to fend off two break points to avoid going 5-4 down.

The world number three held and broke to love to take the first set before dominating the second in the Flushing Meadows bubble.

Pliskova will face Caroline Garcia in the second round after the 32nd seed beat Jasmine Paolini 6-3 6-2.

 

GAUFF OUSTED

For the first time in her career, American teenager Gauff lost in the first round of a grand slam following a 6-3 5-7 6-4 defeat against 31st seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Gauff reached the fourth round at this year's Australian Open, but the 16-year-old crashed out at her home major.

 

KVITOVA, KERBER PROGRESS

Sixth seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova eased past Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3 6-2.

Three-time grand slam winner Angelique Kerber – the 17th seed – made her first appearance since January and defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4 6-4.

American sensation Coco Gauff made a first-round exit at the US Open on Monday.

Gauff, 16, fell in the opening round of a grand slam for the first time after a 6-3 5-7 6-4 loss to Latvian 31st seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Teenager Gauff thrilled the tennis world last year when she made the fourth round at Wimbledon, before repeating that feat at this year's Australian Open.

However, there will be no such memorable run at Flushing Meadows after a loss to Sevastova that lasted just over two hours.

Gauff finished with 40 unforced errors, including 13 double faults, to fall in the opening round.

She could have faced Naomi Osaka in the third round once more, the Japanese star having thrashed Gauff at the same stage in a memorable clash last year.

Kristina Mladenovic revealed she has had to enter a "bubble bubble" at the US Open after coming into contact with Benoit Paire, who tested positive for coronavirus.

Paire was removed from the men's singles draw after the United States Tennis Association (USTA) on Sunday confirmed an unnamed player had returned a positive COVID-19 test.

As the grand slam got under way behind closed doors at Flushing Meadows on Monday, it was reported a number of French players had to abide by strict quarantine rules because they were in contact with compatriot Paire.

Mladenovic confirmed she must adhere to tighter regulations in New York after she beat Hailey Baptiste 7-5 6-2 on day one of the tournament.

Asked if she had been in contact with Paire, she said: "I did a one-hour training session with Benoît a few days ago, but we were on either side of the net, and that is not taken into account. 

"On the other hand, I also spent between half an hour and three quarters of an hour, in the hotel lobby, playing cards with different people. Benoit was there. 

"It was the fact of having passed that moment, even though we were all masked, that led to the continuation. It was hard for me to accept the situation because I am not part of his close entourage. And I'm sorry and sad for Benoit."

Quizzed how her situation has changed, Mladenovic replied: "I have the right to play my match, but I literally have the right to do nothing else. 

"I am not allowed to go to the gym, not to do anything that is public inside the bubble. I can only be completely alone with my brother, who coaches me. It's really a bubble within the bubble."

Mladenovic revealed she had returned two negative COVID-19 tests since it was revealed Paire had tested positive.

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