The nighttime crowd on Arthur Ashe, all 24,600 of them, was treated to an entertaining duel between Ana Ivanovic and Sloane Stephens, two of the women’s game’s most attractive stars, but the result was not quite what the fans wanted.
Stephens, the 19-year-old who seems poised for great things in the game, fought as hard as she could to stem the flow of winners from the Serb’s racket, but, in the end, she was simply overpowered and went down, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2.
Although there was little sign of it as she chased everything in sight, Stephens was suffering from what she called a “minor ab strain.”
“It affected my serve, kind of threw me off a little,” Stephens said. “Things like that happen. It’s nothing you can control. This morning, I woke up with some swelling. Just tried to put it out of my head. I went out there and gave it all I had, pretty much, and then some. That’s all you can really do.”
Stephens had lost to Ivanovic here 12 months ago in straight sets. Ivanovic felt the difference.
“I expected a very tough match this time around,” the former world No. 1 said. “She’s improved a lot since last year, as I remembered. Her serve is a lot faster, her forehand as well. She was going for her serves on the lines very well, and they had some pop. I tried to run around sometimes and put more pressure with my forehand.”
Ivanovic had to find a way through the American’s solid defense and used that forehand as a battering ram. She made a lot of mistakes with it, 34 in total, but also came up with the winners she needed on crucial points. Twenty-two found their mark, and they did the damage in a seesaw second set in which Ivanovic broke, lost her serve and broke again.
Although disappointed, Stephens is not one to get down on herself.
“I played really well,” she said. “Things didn’t go my way, but to play on Ashe in a night match in front of all those people – it’s not every day you can do that. I love improving; I love seeing myself get better. I want to keep that mindset, and I want to keep moving forwards. Maybe next year I’ll be like in the top 10 or something and you guys can be like, ‘Yeah, remember what you said in press conference?’”
Sam Querrey is not quite such an ebullient character as Stephens, and he just had to admit that he was outplayed by the No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych, who beat the Californian, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. It was all downhill for Querrey after a hotly contested first set, as the big Czech started finding the mark with his huge first serve and power-driven forehand.