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US Open 2018: Sloane Stephens proud despite failure to repeat triumph

Karolina Pliskova

It was the middle of the night before the Spaniard could head home after beating Thiem: 'It was a great match, great atmosphere and I was happy to be part of it.

"There's a pattern maybe, because", she said, "because some tournaments I play always good". "That's the most important thing to me", she continued. Asked if there were any positives she could take from her run, Stephens said: "That I could have shit the bed in the first round and that would have been really bad".

The 28-year-old retired in 2013 after a succession of injuries drained her motivation.

For a spot within the semi-finals of the event, Stephens will compete with the tennis participant from Latvia Anastasiya Sevastopol, which is within the fourth spherical beat Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.

Sevastova said: "It was an fantastic journey, this three, four years. And when you're winning a tournament, you think that's normal".

"You think, 'Oh, but in the end it's wonderful, yeah?' You can't believe, yeah".

"It's going to be a close match, I think", she said. "But I don't play drop shots when I see the player struggling or bending over".

"When you don't play big points well, the match can get away from you".

Stephens had beaten Sevastova in the same round past year en route to her first Grand Slam title.

Sevastova is one of the wiliest players on tour, mixing up slices, spins and angles and generally making life very uncomfortable for a player like Stephens who feeds off consistency of pace. Goffin, who was bidding to become the first Belgian man to reach the US Open quarter finals, enjoyed a nice start with a break of serve and grabbed a 5-3 edge before moving within two points of taking the first set.

The Latvian had no apparent power or pace, but she had the touch and variety to smother Stephens' game.

Now he looks ahead to a semi-final where he will either take a 5-11 losing record against Nadal or a ideal 4-0 over Thiem, including a fourth round clash in NY a year ago where he came back from two sets down and saved two match points. For the match, he hit 74 winners and 18 aces and stole six break points to Nadal's five. It was just a 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. And it was the way Nadal won - with power and tireless energy, matching his younger opponent's athleticism and appearing to grow stronger with each monstrous forehand - that told the story of how the two best players in the world have fared in recent months.

Pliskova is a big server and hitter in her own right, someone who briefly spent time at No. 1 in the WTA rankings and was the runner-up at the U.S. Open in 2016, when she beat Williams in the semifinals.

'And obviously defending a title is very hard, very difficult.

"I can be proud of a lot of the things that happened the last couple, the matches that I played, so I'm not going to dwell on it".