Stephens hop­ing to spring an­other sur­prise

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - SPORT - ELEANOR CROOKS

SLOANE STEPHENS ad­mits she is feel­ing the pres­sure as she pre­pares to de­fend her US Open ti­tle.

The third seed will step out on the new Louis Arm­strong Sta­dium against Rus­sia’s Ev­geniya Ro­d­ina to­day look­ing to con­tinue the New York fairy tale that swept her to an im­prob­a­ble ti­tle suc­cess 12 months ago.

Only just back from a se­ri­ous foot in­jury, Stephens ar­rived at Flush­ing Mead­ows ranked 83 and left as Amer­ica’s new­est grand slam cham­pion.

Stephens said: “I’ve been back (to Flush­ing Mead­ows) about four or five times now. For me, be­ing here is su­per cool, ob­vi­ously. But as de­fend­ing cham­pion (there is) a lot of stress, a lot of pres­sure.

“I’m just go­ing to go out and han­dle it as best I can, just try to play my best. It’s a com­pletely new tour­na­ment this year.”

Back­ing up such un­ex­pected suc­cess is no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult, and Stephens did not win an­other match un­til the end of Fe­bru­ary, suf­fer­ing eight suc­ces­sive losses, but since then she has shown her Flush­ing Mead­ows tri­umph was no fluke.

The 25-year-old won the big­gest WTA Tour ti­tle of her ca­reer in Mi­ami in March be­fore reach­ing a sec­ond slam fi­nal at the French Open, this time los­ing to Si­mona Halep.

Stephens is one of 13 cur­rent or former slam cham­pi­ons in the women’s draw and six oth­ers also be­gin their cam­paigns on to­day.

Venus Wil­liams takes on Svet­lana Kuznetsova be­fore Ser­ena Wil­liams makes her US Open come­back against Magda Linette to open the night ses­sion.

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