By Julian Linden, Reuters
NEW YORK, Reuters
Serena Williams easily won her eagerly-awaited clash with Sloane Stephens at the U.S. Open on Sunday as normal service resumed at the last grand slam of year.
Williams was one of four U.S. Open champions that won on Sunday, sending a clear message to the next generation’s finest that they will have to wait their turn.
The 31-year-old avenged her loss to Stephens at the Australian Open with an emphatic 6-4 6-1 victory to keep her title defence on course.
“It’s definitely difficult, especially playing people that you like, that you always want to see do well,” Williams said.
“But you have to go out there and kind of put that to the side and realize, I want to do well myself and take every point as it comes.”
The defending men’s champion Andy Murray and world number one Novak Djokovic also won in straight sets, while 2001 winner Lleyton Hewitt turned back the clock to reach the fourth round for the first time since 2006.
Murray, playing in the middle of a hot and steamy day, needed less than two hours to see off Germany’s Florian Mayer 7-6(2) 6-2 6-2 and advance to the fourth round.
Djokovic was even more ruthless in his center court night match against Portugal’s Joao Sousa, cruising to a 6-0 6-2 6-2 win, while 32-year-old Hewitt wore down Russia’s Evgeny Donskoy 6-3 7-6(5) 3-6 6-1.
“Obviously when you’ve been to the top you want to keep playing,” said Hewitt, who stunned sixth seed Juan Martin del Potro in the previous round.
“The reason you’re playing is for the majors, and for me, Davis Cup as well. That’s the reason I’m still playing.”
Stephens beat Williams in January in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park to enhance her standing as a future leader of U.S. women’s tennis, but was completed outgunned by a woman bidding to become the oldest to win the U.S. Open since tennis turned professional in 1968.
“Obviously she’s number one in the world for a reason,” said Stephens, 11 years younger than Williams. “I thought she played really well.
“All in all I thought I competed well and played well. That’s all you can do really.”
Williams will play Carla Suarez Navarro in the quarter-finals, the Spaniard having upset Germany’s eighth-seed Angelique Kerber 4-6 6-3 7-6(3).