Kerber vs Stephens: Clash of the US Open Champions

Angelique Kerber
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In a day packed full of tantalizing matches, the pick of the day could take place away from the main court, on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Both former US Open champions, Angelique Kerber and Sloane Stephens are due to do battle in the third round. Let’s preview the forms of both players and their match-up as a primer for a potential highlight of this year’s US Open.

Sloane Stephens (2017 US Open Champion)

In 2017, Stephens won the US Open. In 2018, she won the Miami Masters and reached the French Open final–it all added up to an impressive career-high ranking of World #3.

Up until a few months ago, however, Stephens had been on a steady decline. Both of Stephens’s Slam final defenaes ended in quarterfinal defeats and since then, she’s failed to reach another quarterfinal. It wasn’t just the Slams though–Stephens went 29-28 against players ranked below her from the beginning of 2019 to April 2021. She dipped as low as #73 in the world earlier this year.

Stephens has changed her fortunes over the past few months, even if the rankings freeze hasn’t done her any favors. She has defeated three Top 20 players in the last two Slams (she had previously defeated one since the beginning of 2019), starting to put together the composed all-court tennis that won her the US Open four years ago.

She’s backed it up this week too–surviving Madison Keys, who was hitting the ball well, was impressive–and her efficient win against Coco Gauff even more so.

Stephens is playing above her ranking and won’t go down without a fight.

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Angelique Kerber (2016 US Open Champion)

Angelique Kerber has also suffered from loss of form in recent years but her fall hasn’t been as sharp as Stephens’.

Kerber peaked with titles at the 2016 Australian Open and US Open earning her the #1 ranking. There was a bit of a drop-off as Kerber flirted with the top-10, before winning Wimbledon in 2018 to get back to the top-five in the world.

After a decent start to 2019, however, Kerber failed to reach a semifinal at any tournament between her run to the Eastbourne final in 2019 to a poor loss to qualifier Anhelina Kalinina in the first-round of the 2021 French Open (she got her revenge in the second round here). Not quite the same as Stephens, but Kerber fell to #28 at the start of the 2021 grass-season.

The 33-year-old has turned things around quickly. She won in Bad Homburg and since then has suffered two semifinals defeats, both to Ash Barty. Her form has been fantastic, dominating the baseline with the same aplomb as 2016. We’ve seen her take down Grand Slam champions Jelena Ostapenko and Petra Kvitova (the latter twice), Grand Slam semifinalists Amanda Anisimova and Karolina Muchova, Top 10-ranked Elina Svitolina, and up-and-comer Coco Gauff in that time.

Angelique Kerber is on a roll and will take some stopping.

Match Preview

Here’s why things are so interesting.

  • Both players are US Open champions, so it should go without saying the two know how to play their best tennis in these conditions.
  • The two are enjoying resurgences, rediscovering their respective levels that won them the biggest titles in the game, so there’s a lot at stake in terms of momentum and ranking ascendancy.
  • The two players survived incredibly close first-rounds. Given a second chance, neither player will take their position in the third round for granted, which could lead to some all-or-nothing tennis.
  • In terms of form, Kerber should be the favorite. However, Stephens has had Kerber’s number in their last five meetings. Not only has she won all five, she’s gone 58-22 in games won/lost against the German.

Which champion will come out on top? Could this match be a crucial stepping stone to a new chapter in either women’s career? Can Kerber turn the tables on a very unfavorable head-to-head?

It’s difficult to say which way the match is going to go. Gun to my head, despite the head-to-head, I’d have to back Angelique Kerber but your guess is as good as mine in what could be an incredibly exciting match.

The match is last on Louis Armstrong stadium, not before before 4:00 PM EDT.

Main Photo from Getty.