Stephens Set to Defend US Open Singles Title

Defending champion, Sloane Stephens returns to Flushing Meadows to face Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina in the first round of the US Open.

Sloane Stephens in the US Open 2017 final

Sloane Stephens in the US Open 2017 final

It comes a year after Stephens vowed audiences by winning her first Grand Slam title, dropping 80 places in the rankings as a result. The now 3rd seed will hope to recreate last year’s glory, despite recovering from a serious foot injury.

Stephens has felt the strain of living up to the expectations of a Grand Slam winner which saw the 25-year-old suffer eight consecutive losses since her win. However, the Florida native looks promising for the upcoming match after winning the Miami Open earlier this year, and most recently placing runner-up to Simona Halep in both the French Open and Rogers Cup.

Like Stephens, Rodina holds one WTA title to her name, as well as several ITF wins. The pair have met on only one occasion at the qualifying round of the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open, with Stephens claiming a 6-3 4-6 3-6 victory.

The hard court surface will likely play in Stephens’ favour who has a record of success on the surface, while 81st seed Rodina has progressed further on grass. The two will face off in the newly built Louis Armstrong Stadium as the tournament celebrates its 50th anniversary. The $600m venture will see the stadium house 14,000 seats, a retractable roof, and be the first of its kind to debut natural ventilation in a tennis stadium.

Speaking to Eurosport of the upcoming match, Stephens expressed her enthusiasm to succeed on home turf, saying “I would love to do well here. Obviously as an American, any American wants to do well here.” She also went on to discuss the burden of returning as defending champion; “…for me, being here is super cool, obviously. But as defending champion, obviously (there is) a lot of stress, a lot of pressure".

The first round will also see top seed Simona Halep take on Kaia Kanepi, while 2017 Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza battles Zhang Shuai on court 17. Venus Williams will share a court with Svetlana Kuznetsova as the pair face off on the Arthur Ashe Stadium, while Serena Williams makes a comeback on Tuesday to take on Magda Linette, with the possibility of the siblings meeting on the third round of the tournament.

How to watch

The US Open is streaming live on Amazon Prime.

Words by Teshani Nanayakkara – follow her on Twitter