World No. 1 Serena Williams will have the chance to avenge her ouster from the Australian Open when she faces Sloane Stephens in an emotional fourth-round clash at the US Open.
Defending champion Williams, whose relationship with Stephens was strained after the prodigy upset the 16-time grand slam champion at Melbourne, advanced early yesterday by beating 78th-ranked Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3, 6-1.
“It’s going to be tough,” Williams said. “Sloane is playing so well. I’m always so happy for her. She’s doing great. I’m really proud of Sloane. It’s going to be a really good match.”
Stephens, the 15th seed, eliminated fellow American and 23rd seed Jamie Hampton 6-1, 6-3, and now faces the superstar she accused of disrespectful intimidation tactics and mind games for a quarterfinal berth on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts.
“It’ll be epic and something a lot of people will be looking forward to,” Stephens said. “I’m excited about it.”
Williams, who at 31 could become the oldest US Open women’s champion, and Stephens have not played since the 20-year-old phenom beat the four-time US Open champion 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in an Australian Open quarter-final last January.
Stephens was friendly with Williams a year ago at New York but the relationship soured after Williams beat her in a Brisbane quarterfinal and then suffered the shock grand slam defeat.