Serena Williams survived a third-round scare at the U.S. Open to topple 2017 champion Sloane Stephens 2-6 6-2 6-2 and keep alive her bid for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title.
A sure-footed Stephens pounced early as third seed Williams struggled with her first serve and committed 13 unforced errors in the first set, claiming an early break for a 2-1 lead.
The 26th seed kept Williams on the run as she saved two break points, with the 38-year-old struggling to find her rhythm.
But the momentum dramatically shifted in Williams’ favour in the second set.
She opened up a 4-2 lead as she cleaned up her game and kept psyching herself up in the absence of the legions of fans who regularly flock to Flushing Meadows.
The stands sat empty this year due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
“It was intense, I have to say,” Williams, chasing a seventh title at the New York major, said in an on-court interview.
“It always brings out the best in my fitness when I play Sloane.”