Defending champ Sloane Stephens falls in quarterfinals

Dean Simpson
September 7, 2018

It was 86 degrees just before the start of Tuesday's quarterfinal between Anastasija Sevastova and defending champion Sloane Stevens on Arthur Ashe Stadium, with temperatures again expected to rise through the 90s.

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Sloane Stephens, of the United States, reaches for a shot from Elise Mertens, of Belgium, during the fourth round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, in NY.

Next up for the 28-year-old is the victor of the evening match between six-time champion Serena Williams and Czech eighth seed Karolina Pliskova.

Sevastova will now face Serena Williams in the last four.

After taking a 4-1 lead in the second set, Sevastova admitted that memories of last year's quarter-final against Stephens flashed across her mind.

When Juan Martin Del Potro had overcome a deficit, the heat and finally American John Isner, he dropped his racket, threw his splayed arms aloft and tossed his head back, eyes closed, doing his best Andy Dufresne imitation. That was the first set dropped by del Potro in the tournament.

If Monday was "prime-time upset time" when Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova wilted under the sweltering heat, fans had more reason to cheer on Tuesday after Serena Williams defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-3.

"I would never have forgiven myself if I had lost that match", said a tearful Osaka.

"When you don't play big points well, the match can get away from you", she said. "I played some good ones before, but not that long, not that long against the great guys on the Grand Slam stage".

Stephens by comparison won 73 percent of her first serves and saved four of the six break points she faced, while also making 10 fewer unforced errors than her opponent.

Encouraged by her home crowd, the world number three threatened a comeback by getting the match back on serve at 4-3 but was then broken again before Sevastova served out.

Her frustration became apparent, whether she was gesturing to her coach, staring in annoyance at deep balls that bounced off the baseline, or just screaming out in general. Mertens lobbed Stephens deep into deuce court, but Stephens, in full sprint, ran it down and hit a magnificent cross-court forehand victor with the stunned Mertens racing to the net.

She did eventually get close, breaking Sevastova at love to cut it to 4-3 in the second set.

"I think it was very physical today", Sevastova, who lost to Stephens during a U.S. Open tune-up in Montreal last month, said during her on-court interview.

"Obviously defending a title is very hard. It's a big opportunity for both of us".

Anastasija Sevastova greets Sloane Stephens after quarter-final win in 2018 US Open.

She insisted she still had plenty to be proud of.

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