US Open: Defending champion Sloane Stephens knocked out by Anastasija Sevastova

"It was an awesome journey, this three, four years, " she said. As the mercury rose above 37 degree Celsius at the barely-filled Arthur Ashe Stadium and the humidity sapped energy, Sevastova tightened the noose around Stephens.

Certainly was. And that chase-down, tunaround, hook-shot of a passing victor just showed a glimpse of how the No. 3 Stephens can go from defence to offence with flair, as she did repeatedly during her 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 15 Elise Mertens of Belgium in the fourth round.

"But the challenge of playing him on hard of course is even higher for me personally than playing against him on clay". It just was a really tough day.

If Monday was "prime-time upset time" when Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova wilted under the sweltering heat, fans had more reason to cheer on Tuesday after Serena Williams defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-3. Entering the quarterfinals at the grand slam, she is on what could be another championship run.

There were other, similar efforts of that sort by the 25-year-old American. The spirit of the game was moving fast in Sevastova's direction as she whipped up a 6-2 first set victory. Her season was building up towards the last Slam of the season.

She now awaits the victor of Williams and Karolina Pliskova.

She and Pliskova have history at Flushing Meadows.

Sevastova praised Stephens for her serve and movement, the weight of her shots and the quality of her spin.

Isner, meanwhile, will return to Dallas as quickly as he can where his wife is due to give birth to their first child in two weeks' time. Thiem raced to a 3-0 lead before Nadal fought back, but the Austrian held his nerve to level the match.

"I would say the first really epic match that I played". Mertens lobbed Stephens deep into deuce court, but Stephens, in full sprint, ran it down and hit a magnificent cross-court forehand victor with the stunned Mertens racing to the net. "When the things happen like this, the atmosphere and the crowd become more special".

Stephens beat Sevastova a year ago on her way to the title, but had no answer for the Latvian on Tuesday. 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. The American's US Open title defence finished with a tame forehand error.

"I have been playing well the last matches".

Both players had two chances to break in the third set, and the 15-40 chance that Isner missed at 2-1 ultimately proved to be his big opportunity.

It was Stephens' less-heralded Latvian opponent who has been taking her opportunities in NY. It was only the third time in the Open era that a men's No. 1 seed won a match after being bageled in the opening set.

  • Julie Sanders