In the most highly anticipated fourth-round match of the 2013 U.S. Open, Serena Williams defeated Sloane Stephens by a count of 6-4, 6-1. As a result, Williams moves on to the quarterfinals for a match against No. 18 Carla Suarez Navarro.
As if we didn't already know it, Williams proved that she remains the favorite to win the 2013 U.S. Open after sending a message against Stephens.
It wasn't the prettiest win for Serena, as she struggled immensely during the first set of her victory over Stephens. While some will chalk that up to Stephens' strong play, Williams was sloppy at best, and she nearly fell a set down because of it.
After one set, Williams had 12 winners to a shocking 11 unforced errors. To make matters worse, she committed three double faults and converted just two of eight break point opportunities.
During the second set, however, the world's No. 1 responded in a major way.
Serena posted 10 winners to two unforced errors, went 2-for-2 on break points and capitalized on virtually every opportunity she was presented with. As a result, Williams reminded us of what we've known all along: Stephens may be a fierce competitor, but Williams is the best in the world. And it took her less than 90 minutes to prove it.
A taste of sweet revenge.
This was vintage Serena, as she responded from a past loss against an opponent to remind us of who the true elite is. Stephens' memorable 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over Williams at the 2013 Australian Open was inspiring, but the comparisons between the two are beyond premature.
Williams silenced the hype with a second-set clinic.
Stephens has the potential to be a great player, and she's already displayed flashes of being one at 20. In 2013 alone, she's reached the semifinals at the Australian Open, quarterfinals at Wimbledon and fourth round at both the French Open and U.S. Open.
Comparing her to the player who is the unquestioned best of her time, however, is an unfair expectation for Stephens to live up to.
As for Williams herself, she's won two of the past four U.S. Open events that she's participated in, reaching the finals in 2011 and semifinals in 2009. Most recently, Williams defeated Victoria Azarenka to win the 2012 U.S. Open title, proving that this is still her event to lose.
Anyone who wants to debate that fact can check Williams' four U.S. Open titles, which ranks third in the open era behind Chris Evert and Steffi Graf, tying her with Martina Navratilova.
This performance was a testament to her greatness, as she rebounded from what could've been a disastrous first set to absolutely decimate her opponent. While Stephens' inability to capitalize on mistakes played a role in her defeat, this was all about Serena.
With her back against the wall, Williams came out firing and reminded the world of just how dominant she can be when on her game.
There's a reasonably difficult road ahead, as Suarez Navarro is playing magnificent tennis and should pose a threat to Williams in the quarterfinals. With that being said, Suarez Navarro sums up the rest of the bracket, as she's a quality player who isn't quite on Williams' level.
And that was evident against Stephens.
Stephens pulled off an extraordinary upset of Serena at the Australian Open, but this performance shows why we use that word. It's far from a criticism of Stephens' ability, or anyone else for that matter, but instead an acknowledgement of what Williams is capable of when in a rhythm.
Future rounds will pose problems for Williams, but there isn't a player remaining that can be viewed as the favorite but Serena. This isn't a year in which she's struggled to be successful, but a time in which the greatest of our generation is dominating even when she's not at the top of her game.
With the quarterfinals upon us, expect Williams to be at her best and continue on her path to becoming the greatest to ever play.
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