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Williams sets up encounter with Stephens

ESPN staff
August 31, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Serena Williams will face fellow American Sloane Stephens in the next round © Getty Images
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Yet to be challenged even a bit at this US Open, Serena Williams now gets a sure-to-be-hyped match against one of only three women to beat her all year, Sloane Stephens.

From the moment the women's draw came out at Flushing Meadows, it was clear which potential fourth-rounder was the most intriguing: defending champion Williams against up-and-coming talent Stephens.

"As I always say, I think it will be epic," Stephens said. "I'm really looking forward to it. See what happens."

And that statement came hours before Williams had advanced out of the third round by beating 78th-ranked Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan 6-3 6-1.

Stephens reached the round of 16 for the first time by beating 23rd-seeded Jamie Hampton 6-1 6-3 in an all-American tilt.

Stephens has reached at least the fourth round at all four grand slam tournaments this season, including a semi-final run at the Australian Open in January, when she upset Williams in the quarter-finals. That's one of only four losses for the top-ranked Williams in 2013.

Stephens has lost in the third round at Flushing Meadows in each of the last two years, beaten by 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic both times.

Afterward, Hampton blamed her own jitters, saying she's been working with a sports psychologist to try to improve her mindset when the stakes are most significant.

"I've had tendencies, shown tendencies, to play really bad in big moments," Hampton said. "I'm incredibly, incredibly disappointed in the way I played today."

Stephens might say the same about how she shows up at lower-tier tournaments. While her Grand Slam record this season is 15-3, she is only 17-15 at other tournaments, with six losses in the first or second round.

"The grand slams - it's just showtime, I guess," Stephens said, shrugging her shoulders. "What can you do?"

Agnieszka Radwanska needed nearly two hours to slip past No. 32 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 7-6(1). The former Wimbledon finalist faced 10 break points, but Pavlyuchenkova was able to convert only two, while Radwanska was three for five.

Jelena Jankovic also pulled out a tough straight-set victory, while No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber also advanced.

Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki won't be making a run after she was eliminated in straight sets by Ekaterina Makarova, losing 6-4 7-5.

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Extracts from this article appeared on ESPN.com

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