Williams Gets Stephens Again as Del Potro Is Upset at U.S. Open

Serena Williams wasted little time dispatching Yaroslava Shvedova after a late start at the U.S. Open, setting up a rematch with fellow American Sloane Stephens, who upset Williams at the Australian Open in January.

The top-seeded Williams, 31, hit 22 winners to Shvedova’s three, wrapping up a 6-3, 6-1 win shortly after 1:00 a.m. New York time. The match began at 11:49 last night, as the players waited inside Arthur Ashe Stadium until the completion of Lleyton Hewitt’s upset against men’s No. 6 seed Juan Martin Del Potro, which took more than four hours.

Williams and Hewitt joined defending champion Andy Murray of the U.K. and top-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia as former champions who advanced yesterday at the National Tennis Center in Queens, New York.

“I’m so excited you guys stayed out for the late night rendezvous,” Williams told the crowd after the match. “I don’t think I’ve ever played this late, so it’s a really good surprise.”

Third-round play starts today for the men and continues for the women at the tennis season’s final Grand Slam. Men’s No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal plays Ivan Dodig of Croatia, while 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer of Switzerland faces France’s Adrian Mannarino. Women’s No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who has dropped four games in two matches, will play No. 26 seed Alize Cornet of France.

Stephens needed just 63 minutes to defeat Jamie Hampton 6-1, 6-3 yesterday in a matchup of the two best-seeded Americans after Williams. It’s the first time the 20-year-old Stephens has advanced past the third round at the U.S. Open. Williams, by contrast, has won 16 Grand Slam titles and hasn’t been eliminated before the fourth round at the U.S. Open since her tournament debut in 1998.

Australian Open

Stephens upset Williams 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January, Williams’s only Grand Slam loss in the 12 months from July 2012 through June 2013. The two later got into a media spat, with Stephens accusing Williams of being disrespectful.

“It’s definitely been a learning experience from January ’til now,” Stephens told reporters yesterday. “I’ve had a great year. I’m really pleased with the way it’s gone.”

Through five days, the U.S. Open has featured few major upsets, with Argentina’s Del Potro and women’s No. 4 Sara Errani the only players seeded in the top 10 of either side to be eliminated so far. Ten such players had been eliminated at the same point last month at Wimbledon.

Djokovic, 26, beat Benjamin Becker of Germany in straight sets, while Hewitt rallied from down two sets to one to beat Del Potro in a matchup of former U.S. Open champions. Murray defeated Leonardo Mayer of Argentina 7-5, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.

‘Keep Improving’

“I played well when I needed to,” Murray, 26, said after his match. “I want to keep improving as the tournament goes on. You don’t want to play your best right at the beginning.”

On the women’s side, fifth-seeded Li Na of China, the 2011 French Open champion, beat No. 32 seed Laura Robson of Britain 6-2, 7-5. Agnieszka Radwanska, the No. 3 seed from Poland, advanced to the fourth round with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) win against 32nd-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia.

Two of the three remaining American men play today, with No. 13 John Isner facing No. 22 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany and Jack Sock facing No. 18-seed Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia. American Tim Smyczek yesterday beat Alex Bogomolov Jr. 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. No American male has advanced to the semifinals at the U.S. Open since Andy Roddick lost in the 2006 finals.

“All of us Americans have a pretty good rapport, and we’re all pulling for each other,” Smyczek, 25, said yesterday. “It’s pretty cool the way we all get along.”

Williams echoed a similar sentiment about the U.S. women. She said that while her match against Stephens would be tough, there was a silver lining.

“There is definitely going to be one American in the quarterfinals,” she said. “I’m really excited about that.”

-- With assistance from Mason Levinson in New York. Editor: Rob Gloster

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