US Open Women's Singles Day Six Tips: Stephens unlikely to challenge Williams

The third round of the US Open continues on Saturday, and with a number of fascinating matches on the schedule, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, previews the action...

Putintseva gets us a day five winner

We had a great day five at the US Open with our pick, Yulia Putintseva, getting the better of Aliaksandra Sasnovich, and our outright selections, Petra Martic and Petra Kvitova, both getting through to round four in straight sets.

On a generally good day for favourites on the women's side, there weren't any notable upsets, although tournament favourite Naomi Osaka was again taken to a deciding set, this time by Marta Kostyuk. She's now into 5.30 for the title, with Serena Williams now out at 9.60, similar odds to Kvitova (who we recommended at 22.00 pre-tournament) and Victoria Azarenka.

Williams with a big edge over Stephens

Williams is back in action today and faces 2017 winner Sloane Stephens in their all-American third round meeting. Over the last year or two, Stephens' numbers have been much less impressive than when she reached the final here three years ago, or got to the French Open final in 2018, and I'm very surprised to see Serena as big as 1.48 to get the win here.

Stephens' performances so far have been strong (115% combined service/return points won across her two matches in the tournament) but who has she played? Mihaela Buzarnescu in her first match since being injured in September 2019, and ITF Tour regular Olga Govortsova. If the market is using this as grounds to think Stephens is back playing at a high level which can be sustained in the future, then it's not a point of view that I agree with at the current time - I'd need to see much more evidence.

Serena has won five from their six head-to-head meetings, although all were over five years ago. In those, she held 83% of the time and broke 35%, and if today's match goes along those lines, she will improve that record to six from seven. I'd be surprised if Williams lost this and in the run-up to the match, we should be able to get around 1.80 on her giving up a 3.5 game head start.

American Tennis Player Serena Williams

Azarenka could be tested by Swiatek

Several other players towards the top of the outright market are in action, including Victoria Azarenka and Sofia Kenin. Azarenka faces the very talented young Polish player, Iga Swiatek, who I had pegged as having future top 10 level a while back - particularly on clay. If this match was played several weeks ago, I'm not even sure Azarenka would have been priced as much of a favourite, but it's a mark of how she has played post-lockdown that the market has her priced at 1.24 to make round four. I suspect this is a little short, though.

Kenin a big step up for Jabeur

As for Kenin, she faces a tough test in the improving Tunisian, Ons Jabeur. Jabeur is now 7-2 in matches since the tour resumed, although only one of those victories was against opposition in the top 80 (Madison Keys at the Western & Southern Open). Kenin is 1.55 and that looks about right to me.

In other matches, the aforementioned Keys is a justifiable 1.34 favourite over Alize Cornet, while Elise Mertens and Karolina Muchova are heavy favourites against Caty McNally and Sorana Cirstea, respectively. Muchova, against Cirstea, looks a little short as well.

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