US Open -- Defending champ Sloane Stephens loses in quarterfinals

Anastasija Sevastova

Anastasija Sevastova

Defending champion Rafael Nadal shockingly was shut out in the first set of his U.S. Open quarterfinal before coming back to beat No. 9 seed Dominic Thiem 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) in 4 hours, 49 minutes.

Rival Anastasija Sevastova in the semifinals of the U.S. Open will be determined in the match between two former first rackets of the world - Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova.

"I think it was very physical today".

"I weigh 238 pounds, so I have always said it's pretty hard to play in hot conditions, for me especially, because I weigh a lot and I sweat a lot".

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"I really feel like right now I'm playing free because I was having a baby this time past year, so I have nothing to prove", said Williams, who is seeking her first major title since her daughter Olympia was born on September 1 of 2017. The shot that earned her the decisive break with Stephens serving at 3-4 in the second set was a sidespin backhand slice that landed in the midcourt - the last place anyone, including Stephens, expected to see a ball.

"I saw she was struggling, but I don't play drop shots when I see the player struggling or bending over", said Sevastova.

With the heat, humidity and blazing sun combining to make conditions hazardous enough that organizers suspended junior matches, the scraps of shade on the massive Ashe court were invaluable.

After taking a 4-1 lead in the second set, Sevastova admitted that memories of last year's quarter-final against Stephens flashed across her mind. It's back to the drawing board for the number 3 player and onto the next tournament be it in Chicago, Quebec City, onto the Asian Swing, the WTA Finals or others.

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On Wednesday, Naomi Osaka became the first Japanese woman to advance to a Grand Slam in 22 years when she beat Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-1. Right now you're in the tournament, you're playing next tournament next week, and you don't feel it.

Stephens said that despite the manner of her defeat on Tuesday she was content with what she had achieved at this tournament.

Sevastova's creative play makes for a great matchup with Stephens, as their intense, three-set battle here past year demonstrated. The Mallorcan lost in the Melbourne quarters, won Roland Garros for an 11th time, and fell to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon semis this year.

Del Potro saved the only two break points he faced in the entire match in the fourth game of the third set which he wrapped up in another tiebreak. After a first-round Australian Open exit, Stephens made the French Open finals where she lost to Simona Halep. I didn't convert. I didn't play the big points well, and you don't win matches when you don't take your opportunities.

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"I'm going to remember this match, for sure". As usual, he had to do it without the benefit of many cheap points; he hit just three aces, 15 fewer than Thiem. If you were defending, you'd be playing the same exact people all over again, which I didn't.

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