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Angelique Kerber tops Sloane Stephens in battle of former U.S. Open champions

Angelique Kerber returns to Sloane Stephens during the

Angelique Kerber returns to Sloane Stephens during the third round of the U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Friday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Sloane Stephens’ run at the U.S. Open ended on Friday at the hands of Angelique Kerber in a battle of two former winners of the tournament.

For Kerber it ended a streak of dominance by Stephens over her, having lost the previous five matches over six years without winning a set.

"You know that before you go on court actually that you lost the last few matches against her," said Kerber, the 2016 Open champ (Stephens won the next year). "But on the court, for me, Sloane is always a tricky opponent. I mean, she's playing high, she's going forward, she has a good serve. During the match I'm really not thinking too much about the head-to-head that we have.

"For me it was really important to have the mentality that I really want to win the match and going there to fight for every ball."

In the end she did.

Garbine Muguruza equaled her best performance in the U.S. Open by making the fourth round with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 victory over three-time Open finalist Victoria Azarenka.

For Muguruza it was her first win on Ashe Stadium in a long time.

"Happy that it's actually first Arthur Ashe win after almost 10 years," Muguruza said. "It's kind of funny."

The former French Open and Wimbledon champion just has never felt comfortable at Flushing Meadows, though she said earlier in the tournament that she has taken a much relaxed attitude and that wins over Donna Vekic and Andrea Petkovic built her confidence .

The past years I was very — in Spanish we say you're a little bit cross, your brain is a little bit not working very well. I felt, yeah, I don't know, negativity was more than positivity in the previous years. This year, I don't know, I just prepared well and say, hey, at some point it's going to change, this might be the year."

And it seemed that attitude was working in the first two matches.

"I feel also having went through those couple of first tough matches gave me also the feeling that, hey, I can do well here," Muguruza said.

Simona Halep, who hasn’t managed to do much at the Open since a quarterfinal loss to Serena Williams in 2016, is rather surprisingly through to the fourth round after a 7-6, (11), 4-6, 6-3 win over Elena Rybakina. Halep didn’t play here last year during the pandemic.

"It's nice to be back in the second week of the U.S. Open after five years, because I said three years on court and my brother wrote me that it's five years, not three years. I correct it now," Halep said with a smile.

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