The blog is back for the ending stages of the first week of the US Open and this preview post will cover two third round blockbusters from the top half of the draw. Read on for previews of Serena-Venus and Stephens-Azarenka…
US Open, Third Round
1.  Serena Williams (No.22) vs  Venus Williams (No.16)
Serena has had a really comfortable draw so far with the loss of just eight games against Magda Linette and Carina Witthoeft combined. Williams had struggled on the tour since reaching the final at Wimbledon, coming into New York on a three-match losing streak, but had shown signs of vintage Serena in her loss to Petra Kvitova in Cincinnati. Serena has brought that level to the US Open so far and with the exit of World No.1 Simona Halep in her section, the draw has definitely opened up for the American.
For Serena to get even further in the draw, she’ll first have to get past sister Venus in the 30th chapter of their rivalry. While Serena has had the comfortable route, Venus has had to battle past two accomplished players in Svetlana Kuznetsova and Camila Giorgi to reach this stage. Many had Williams out early in the draw but she has produced her best tennis of the year to outlast those two in tight battles.
Head to head: Serena leads the head to head 17-12, though Venus had won their last match-up at Indian Wells this year in a 6-3 6-4 scoreline. Venus played great but it was Serena’s first tournament since coming back from having her baby.
Thoughts: Can’t wait for this one! Both players always seems to raise their levels during their sister clashes so even with Serena not having faced a formidable opponent so far, she’ll definitely be ready for this one. Not much to say here as I haven’t seen any of their matches this week, but high with Serena at the moment.
Final Prediction: Serena Williams d. Venus Williams in three sets
2.  Sloane Stephens (No.3) vs Victoria Azarenka (No.79)
Stephens had an easy draw to the third round in her title defense but it turned out not to be easy at all as she was forced to battle past Ukrainian qualifier and world No.134 Anhelina Kalinina in a 4-6 7-5 6-2 scoreline. Stephens struggled with the heat and an inspired performance from her opponent in the first set, but showed her champion qualities to edge out the second set and cruised through the remainder of the match. It wasn’t pretty from Stephens but she showed her fight – more often than not in the beginning of the year (exception of Miami) she was losing all these matches when her opponents were playing their best. This win should give Stephens confidence when she starts to face even tougher opponents.
Azarenka had shown signs of promise over the US hard court swing, starting with a semifinal appearance in San Jose, but always seemed to fall short in the end in losses to Johanna Konta in Montreal and Caroline Garcia in Cincinnati. Azarenka still does have all the shots in her bag, but hasn’t been able to piece them all together and has been just lacking a spark in her game since the tour headed to the clay swing. Once again, Azarenka produced a good performance in the second round here against Daria Gavrilova – question is, can she keep it up to score an upset against the defending champion?
Head to head: Azarenka leads the head to head 3-2, however both of Stephens’ wins have come this year, at Indian Wells (6-1 7-5) and in Miami (3-6 6-2 6-1).
Thoughts: Hoping for this to be a good battle as both have gamestyles that compliment and bring out their best in each other. Feel like a big win by ranking is soon to come for Azarenka, but I’m not sure if it’ll come this week as it’s not going to be easy to hit through Stephens, especially in front of her home crowd where she always plays her best tennis at. Edging towards the defending champion in this one.
Final Prediction: Sloane Stephens d. Victoria Azarenka in three sets
Thanks for reading! Check out my US Open predictions here or at the top of the page!