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Defending champ stuns US Open with 'shot of the tournament'

Australian Associated Press
Defending champ stuns US Open with 'shot of the tournament'

Champion Sloane Stephens has wowed the crowds with one of the shots of the tournament on the way to a dominant 6-3 6-3 victory over Belgian Elise Mertens. 

Third-seeded Stephens, who has not dropped a set in four matches at Flushing Meadows this year, lost to Mertens in Cincinnati last month but was never in danger of suffering a repeat as she wrapped up the win in one hour and 26 minutes.

"(Mertens) beat me two weeks ago so I knew that I had to come here and fight and do my best," Stephens said.

"I played a solid match so I couldn't really ask for any more."

The American struck 17 winners and controlled play from the baseline, she dominated in the longer rallies and was helped by her opponent's struggles on serve.

One particular rally stood out for the American champion.

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Stephens somehow gets to the ball before delivering an incredible winner. Pic: Twitter/US Open

Stephens was pushed all the way in the arduous rally early in the second set, before running to the baseline and unleashing a winner straight past her opponent which was labelled the "shot of the tournament."

Fans immediately shared their amazement on Twitter.

Next for Stephens is a repeat of last year's quarter-final against Latvian Anastasija Sevastova, who has reached the last eight in New York for the third successive year.

"In a tournament you have a couple of really tough matches you have to battle through and that last year was the one," Stephens said.

"I'm sure she'll give me a tough match on Tuesday so I'm looking forward it."

The 19th-seeded Sevastova stunned seventh-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3 1-6 6-0.

The result represents yet another major disappointment for Ukrainian Svitolina, who has yet to make it past the quarter-finals at any of the four grand slams.

Meanwhile, Serena Williams' yells of "Come on!" crescendoed right along with the tension in a fourth-round US Open match that began as a rout and suddenly became riveting.

When she ripped a backhand winner to claim the third set's opening game on Sunday, Williams let out her loudest shout of the day, leaning forward and rocking both arms. This turned into a test, and she passed it.

Williams reached the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows for a 10th consecutive appearance by picking her level up after a lull and using 18 aces to beat Kaia Kanepi 6-0 4-6 6-3.

Elise Mertens was unable to hit top form against Sloane Stephens and the defending champion won through in straight sets.

"It wasn't an easy match at all. She obviously knows how to play," Williams, a six-time US Open champion said.

She finished with 47 winners to Kanepi's 22.

"I was just happy to get through it," Williams said.

This was filled with big hitting by both women, along with all manner of shifts in momentum and quality of play.

Next comes a last-eight showdown with 2016 runner-up Karolina Pliskova, who accounted for Australian 18th-seed Ashleigh Barty 6-4 6-4.

The Czech eighth seed was decisive in the big moments and broke Barty once in each set - converting her only two break-point opportunities - to secure the victory.

 

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