Serena Williams came from behind to thrash 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, in the third-round on Saturday.
A sure-footed Stephens pounced early as third seed Williams struggled with her first serve and committed 13 unforced errors in the first set, claiming an early break for a 2-1 lead.
The 26th seed kept Williams on the run as she saved two break points, with the 38-year-old struggling to find her rhythm.
But the momentum dramatically shifted in Williams’ favour in the second set. She opened up a 4-2 lead as she cleaned up her game and kept psyching herself up in the absence of the legions of fans who regularly flock to Flushing Meadows.
The stands are empty this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Williams, who got just half of her first serves in during the first set, appeared increasingly confident as the match went on, dropping just one first-serve point in the third set as the campaign slipped through Stephens’ fingers.
“It was intense, I have to say,” Williams, chasing a seventh title at the New York major, said in an on-court interview.
“It always brings out the best in my fitness when I play Sloane.”
She sent down a dozen aces including one on her second serve
Williams, who next faces Greek Maria Sakkari, played the match in front of her daughter, three-year-old Olympia, and said she hoped “that she saw her momma fighting.”
“I don’t think she was paying attention, between you and me,” she added. “She may have been playing with some princesses upstairs.”