It’s safe to say that Sloane Stephens hasn’t been able to produce her best tennis of late. After an unexpected run to the 2017 US Open title, reaching a career-high ranking of No. 3, and finishing runner-up at the 2018 French Open, Stephens is now ranked No. 39. The American hasn't played for a trophy since the 2018 WTA Finals and came into the US Open just 1-7 in 2020, but her year—and trajectory—has the potential for a complete 180 if she can find a way past 23-time major champion Serena Williams.
“I know if there were fans it would be so lit, and I'm kind of sad we're not playing in front of fans because it would be so fun," Stephens said. “But no, it's another good opportunity to play. Thankful that we're playing in this time just in general. Obviously no fans, the atmosphere won't be as big, but obviously a big opportunity to play against the greatest player in the world."
Long before Serena captured her 23rd Grand Slam, Stephens referred to her idol as the GOAT. The two players share a tremendous mutual respect and are set to meet for the first time since the 2015 French Open.
“She’s such a good player. She’s so smooth, and then bam, there’s like five winners,” Serena said. “She’s won here before, and she’s beaten me before, so it’s not going to be easy.”
When Stephens is on, she might have the biggest forehand in the world, and is one of the few players who can match Serena shot for shot from the baseline:
Stephens combines effortless movement with even more effortless power. At her best, she looks something like this:
One of Stephens’ trademarks is her ability to use her blazing speed to turn defense into offense, something she’ll need to do on Saturday if she wants to have any chance against Serena’s penetrating groundstrokes. First-serve percentage is paramount, as we all know what Serena does to her opponent’s second serves.
Stephens has beaten Serena before, at the 2013 Australian Open, but has since lost her past four meetings. Arguably the sport’s greatest competitor, Serena undoubtedly owns the advantage in the mental toughness department—which should propel her to her fifth consecutive victory over the extremely talented but equally unpredictable 27-year-old.
The Pick: Serena Williams