NEW YORK – World number one Serena Williams felt like she had reached a Grand Slam semi-final or final after ousting rival Sloane Stephens from the US Open, but vowed no letdown for her upcoming quarter-final.
Defending champion Williams, seeking her 17th Grand Slam title and fifth US Open crown, took an emotional 6-4, 6-1 triumph over the US 15th seed on Sunday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“The quality of the tennis was great,” Williams said. “It definitely had feelings more of a quarter-final or a semi-final match.”
Williams, who at 31 would be the oldest women’s champion in US Open history, will face Spanish 18th seed Carla Suarez Navarro for a semi-final berth and the four-time US Open champion promised she would not relax her standard.
“Absolutely not,” Williams said. “I’ve been at this for a long time so for me in my career, there are no letdowns.”
Williams dismissed any revenge notion from their past meeting, when Stephens beat Williams in January in an Australian Open quarter-final.
“It’s definitely difficult playing people that you like, that you always want to see do well,” Williams said. “But you have to go out there and kind of put that to the side and realize, ‘I want to do well myself.'”
And Williams, whose match tactics were dubbed disrespectful and intimidating by Stephens earlier this year, also made it clear that she came to praise her fellow African-American standout, not bury her.
“I don’t think she has to work on anything. I think she is at the next level,” Williams said. “She has already beaten a couple top-five players. I can’t define it. She has beaten me. She has beaten other players. So she’s there. She’s playing really well.”
As the youngest player in the fourth round at age 20, and with fellow African-American star Williams the oldest player in the last 16, Stephens is seen by many as the heir to the Williams.
“I embrace it,” Stephens said. “Everyone has their time to shine. She has earned every opportunity she has gotten. She makes the most out of every time she’s on the court.
“Maybe one day when she’s not playing, people would be like, ‘I wish I wasn’t on the same side (of the draw) as Sloane.’ Things happen in their time. It’s an honor to be able to play on the court with one of the greatest players of all time.”
When pondering the next generation, Williams, who confirmed plans to relaunch a clothing brand online with ready-to-wear outfits and swimsuits, said she would not want her children to be tennis players.
“I hope not. It would be tough,” Williams said. “I never thought about that. Whatever they like, it will be fun.”