(Reuters) – Serena Williams continues her push for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam trophy when she takes on Sloane Stephens on Saturday in an all-American clash of former U.S. Open champions.
Williams has blitzed through the draw without dropping a set but faces a tricky third-round test against the 26th-seeded Stephens, whose run to the 2017 U.S. Open title propelled her to a career-high ranking of No. 3.
Stephens, 27, has struggled to kick on, however, and has not reached a tournament final since the WTA Finals in 2018.
Stephens, who has slipped to No. 39 in the world, entered the second Grand Slam of the year with a miserable 1-7 record but Williams still expects a stern challenge.
“Well, she’s a great competitor. It’s an incredibly interesting match, because she’s actually a U.S. Open champion,” said Serena, who defeated Kristie Ahn and Margarita Gasparyan en route to the third round.
“You can’t win a Grand Slam and not be really, really, really, really, really good. I have a lot of things that I need to focus on and do to get ready.”
Williams, 38, has defeated her compatriot in four straight matches since a defeat in the quarter-finals of the 2013 Australian Open.
In other matches, former world number one Victoria Azarenka plays Iga Swiatek, second seed Sophia Kenin meets Ons Jabeur and seventh seed Madison Keys clashes with Alize Cornet.
In the men’s draw, third seed Daniil Medvedev’s bid for a maiden Grand Slam continues when he faces local hope J.J. Wolf, while 2014 champion Marin Cilic takes on second seed Dominic Thiem in the highlight of the third-round matches.
Felix Auger-Aliassime, who defeated Andy Murray and has not dropped serve in the tournament so far, faces unseeded Frenchman Corentin Moutet.
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)