NY Sports Day
Joe McDonald

McDonald: The Joy And Excitement Of Sloane Stephens Title Defense

Twitter: @usopen

There’s a certain joy with winning the first time. And a certain excitement defensing that crown a year later.

Among the Williams Sisters greatness, women’s American tennis may have lost the innocence of winning through younger eyes.

You have to go back almost 20 years to see how Venus and Serena reacted to winning and how they handled themselves as defending champions.

Yes, they did it with grace.

Now, almost a generation later, we are seeing Sloane Stephens as she tries to defend her crown. Now in the Quarterfinals, by beating No. 15 Elise Mertens, 6-3 6-3.

“I think an American playing at the US Open is incredible,” she said. “But obviously winning here, being the defending champion is crazy. Then to follow that up and do well again, I think it’s something to really get behind.

“I think the state of American tennis, women’s tennis especially, is incredible right now. I think the support is unbelievable for all American players. Just excited to be playing at a time like this.”

And the crowd feels it and is behind the No. 3 seed, who may be the favorite of anyone not named Serena. Believe it or not, she has a chance to win another one of those trophies and maybe there needs to be room on her grandparents table.

“I mean, I was more surprised that I won the US Open,” she said. “Who cares about the trophy. I’ve only seen my trophy like once or twice. It’s at my grandparents’ house, honestly. It’s in their dining room. They see it every morning, show all their friends.

“I think it came at the end of last year. Literally everyone in my family sent me selfies of them with the trophy in my grandparents’ living room. It’s safe and sound, gets a lot of love. It’s pretty cool, something to have that’s really amazing, something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, show my grandkids. It’s cool.”

It will be cool if she gets through the next round with No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova, who beat No. 7 Elina Svitolina, 6-3 1-6 6-0 to advance.

“I think it will be a good match,” Stephens said. “I played her in Montreal. We played a good match. Hoping to just get out there and kind of execute the same game plan. Obviously won’t be easy. Quarterfinals of a Grand Slam is always really tough. A big opportunity for both of us.

“Just excited to get out there and compete again. Obviously being defending champion, being able to get to the quarterfinals again, is incredible. I’m just going to try to keep building on that and keep going.”

That may mean a date with Serena in the Semis, which is something like last year when she beat Venus in the Semis last year.

We are getting ahead of ourselves here, but the excitement of Sloane Stephens continues.


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