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September 1, 2013

Williams, Stephens to meet in 4th round

NEW YORK — Yet to be challenged even a tiny bit at this U.S. 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, the top two Americans in the rankings.

“As I always say,” Stephens said, “I think it will be epic.”

And that statement came hours before Williams even had advanced out of the third round by beating 78th-ranked Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-1 in a match that wrapped up at 1:05 a.m. Saturday.

“I’m so excited you guys stayed out for the late-night rendezvous. Thank you, guys, for staying,” Williams told the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd. “I don’t think I’ve ever played this late.”

She has dropped a total of eight games through six sets this week. After killing time before facing Shvedova by watching “I Love Lucy” on a computer tablet, Williams produced a 22-3 edge in winners. She faced only one break point, erasing it with one of her six aces, then following up with another at 119 mph.

As for facing Stephens on Sunday, Williams said: “I definitely look forward to it. Whatever happens ... an American for sure will be in the quarterfinals, which is really good.”

Much, much earlier, on a ho-hum afternoon devoid of any truly significant surprises, Stephens reached the round of 16 in New York for the first time by beating 23rd-seeded Jamie Hampton 6-1, 6-3 on Friday.

“Serena is the No. 1 player in the world. She’s possibly the greatest player of all time. Sloane is Sloane. You know, she’s making her own name. She’s top 20 in the world for a reason,” Hampton said. “They’re both great players, both great competitors.”

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