Sloane Stephens Gets Her Way And Into The Third Round.

Some champions fuel for Flushing Meadows carbo-loading and hydrating for extreme heat.

Sloane Stephens opted for sushi, a slurpie and a sustained dose of defiance.

Returning to Arthur Ashe Stadium for the first time since her 2017 US Open triumph, a spirited Stephens fought past Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, into the Flushing Meadows third round.

Refueling during a 10-minute break before the final set helped recharge Stephens, who was hampered by a blister on her right finger, through this tense test.

“I just needed to eat something,” Stephens said of the rare sushi and slurpie combination. “That was what was upstairs and they brought me. That’s what I had to eat.

“I think for, you know, playing two hours and 45 minutes, having a break at the end of the second set is always pretty helpful. You kind of are able to regroup, sit down a minute, get into the AC, cool your body down. I think it’s obviously very helpful playing in, like, tough conditions like today. It was very hot out. So, yeah, I think it’s very helpful.”

The victory vaults the reigning champion into a rematch against former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka for the third time this season. Stephens staved off Azarenka, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, in the Miami Open semifinals in March after a 6-1, 7-5 conquest in Indian Wells.

Azarenka, who converted seven of 16 break points crushing 25th-seeded Aussie Daria Gavrilova, 6-1, 6-2, in one hours, 22 minutes, looks sharper now than she did during the spring.

A two-time US Open finalist, Azarenka stopped Stephens three years in a row at the Australian Open from 2013 to 2015, but knows the French Open finalist is a different player these days.

“She’s a very good player,” Azarenka said of Stephens. “I feel like she improved so much to be on the consistent level. I think she’s always been a very talented player. And now she’s taking it one tournament at a time and really performing at a high level at every event. But I always thought she was very talented.

“So for Miami, you know, it was a good match. I think we played well. But I had my chances there. For me, it’s going to be a great challenge, if she wins, to play against her and try to do my best.”

Making her Grand Slam main-draw debut, a fearless Kalinina came out playing with more energy and urgency jumping out to a 4-1 lead with points for 5-1.

The 134th-ranked qualifier stopped a three-game slide hammering her backhand to hold for 5-4.

The 21-year-old Kalinina continued to press the issue and take it to Stephens. Kalinina swept a cross-court forehand past the champion for a third set point.

This time, she played big and bold pouncing on a short second serve with a slap shot forehand down the line to take the set after 61 minutes.

Departing the court, Stephens returned re-engaged breaking to start the second set then staving off three break points to back up the break.

Digging in with a spirited stand, Stephens dashed all over the court flicking back everything Kalinina sent her way bumping a backhand angled reply to break again for 3-0. Stephens took treatment for a blister on her finger.

“I’ve gotten three blisters in the last three weeks,” Stephens said. “I never had a blister on my hand ever, and now I’ve gotten three. But it’s fine though.”

Serving for the set at 6-5, Stephens faced more turbulence.

The reigning champion denied a break point with a series of rousing forehands and escaped the trouble serving out the set to level the match.

Stephens converted all four of her break-point chances and denied seven of the 10 break points she faced in the 59-minute second set.

Swinging more freely and moving more fluidly, Stephens ran down a drop shot, bumped a lob then blocked a backhand volley in a stirring sequence that helped her earn the first break of the final set at love.

Stephens won 10 of 12 points surging to a 2-1 third-set lead.

Pacing slowly between points, the 21-year-old Ukrainian hit the wall in the latter stages. A double fault and error gifted the break and a 5-2 lead to the French Open finalist.

Stephens slid an ace down the middle to end a sticky test in style with a celebratory double fist pump.

Sushi was on the menu today, Stephens will need to bring the appetite for the fight against Azarenka.

“I think it will be a good match,” Stephens said. “She’s playing with a bit of confidence and so am I. Third round of a Grand Slam is always tough. Just got to go out there and compete and play your hardest and see what happens.”

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