Nadal And Stephens Tested But Still Standing


US OPEN, New York

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. [26] Karen Khachanov (RUS)

In their four previous meetings, Khachanov had never taken a set from Nadal. He did manage to push Nadal to two previous tiebreaks; thus, Nadal knew this was going to be a battle. To complicate issues, Nadal was feeling the pressure of being the defending champion and also his right knee started to bother him.

Nadal had chances to break Khachanov early; however, it was Khachanov who broke first. Nadal fought back to even the set; yet, Khachanov would not be denied and he took the first set and kept on applying the screws to the defending champion. He broke early in the second set again and Nadal’s back was truly against the proverbial wall. Khachanov served for a two set lead; yet, Nadal fought his way back to capture the second set.

Nadal had an opportunity to minimize the damage; he served for the match in the fourth set at 5-4 up. Khachanov was not ready to concede defeat and showed that he was willing to dig deep as well. The Russian broke Nadal with some ferocious forehand winners and held to force a second tiebreak. Yet, the damage had been done and he had nothing left in the tiebreak despite his desire to continue competing. Nadal won 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(7), 7-6(3); however, at what cost?


[3] Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. [79] Victoria Azarenka (BLR)

In their first three meetings, Azarenka had the upper hand and she had never dropped a set to the American during those matches. Three years later and the tables have turned in favor of Stephens. Azarenka, now a mother has had her trials on and off court and is finally now fit and focused enough to try to perform at her top level. Yet, Stephens has also matured in that interval; she won her first major title and was a finalist at this year’s French Open.

Azarenka pushed Stephens to the brink, showing why she has been such a difficult opponent; however, Stephens proved once again that she can rise to the occasion especially on the big stage. They both struggled with nerves and they traded breaks; however, in the end it was Stephens who was mentally tougher and able to execute her shots to gain the 6-3, 6-4 victory.

SOURCE OF IMAGE: serveandrally original

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